Chalking tires to enforce parking rules is unconstitutional, appeals court rules


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Drop the chalk, parking enforcers.

A federal appeals court unanimously ruled this week that “chalking” tires to determine whether a car exceeds the time limit on a parking space is the equivalent of entering property without a search warrant.

The case originated in Saginaw, where Alison Taylor had been bombarded with 15 tickets for overstaying the time limit on parking spaces.

The ruling means it’s unconstitutional for parking enforcement officers to use chalk to mark your tires in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, which are covered by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Taylor said in a lawsuit against the city of Saginaw that every ticket she received came after the same parking enforcer marked her tire with chalk and then returned to see if her car had moved.

"Trespassing upon a privately-owned vehicle parked on a public street to place a chalk mark to begin gathering information to ultimately impose a government sanction is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment," Taylor's lawyer, Philip Ellison, wrote in a court filing. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The three-judge panel determined that chalking is unconstitutional because it involves a government official touching a person’s car without reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed.

The judges said Taylor’s car was chalked when it was “lawfully parked in a proper parking location, imposing no safety risk whatsoever.”

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