Marking tires with chalk for the purposes of parking enforcement has been ruled unconstitutional in four states.
Lots of cities use chalk markings to keep track of how long a car has been parked. Each mark represents an inspection by a parking enforcement officer who then keeps track of the last time they’d been to that part of the city. Take too long and accumulate enough markings and you get a ticket. It’s simple and effective.
And it’s unconstitutional.
According to the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the practice of marking a vehicle’s tires for the purposes of parking enforcement violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
On the surface, this seems like a giant leap to go from a marked tire to an unreasonable search, but there is some logic to this decision.
First, a bit of background. The case was brought before the courts by Alison Taylor, a woman living in Saginaw, Michigan. Saginaw is a relatively small town that doesn’t have any parking meters, so parking enforcement officials mark tires with chalk. Somehow, Alison managed to get over a dozen parking violations (each costing about $15) for exceeding the 2-hour parking limit.
Rather than pay the tickets, Alison hired a lawyer and fought the tickets in court. Y’know, the reasonable thing to do in this situation.
A Michigan judge threw out her case as frivolous, but she appealed to the 6th Circuit who agreed to hear the case. Her lawyer, Philip Ellison, argued that chalk marks were basically the same as the police putting a GPS tracker on her car without a warrant. A 2012 ruling by the US Supreme Court ruled that practice violated the Fourth Amendment, and the 6th Circuit agreed that tire marks with chalk is closer to a GPS tracker than not.
Ergo, chalk marks are unconstitutional.
"The city does not demonstrate, in law or logic, that the need to deter drivers from exceeding the time permitted for parking — before they have even done so — is sufficient to justify a warrantless search under the community caretaker rationale," the court said.
This means that Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky can no longer mark tires with chalk for parking enforcement since the 6th Circuit covers each of those states.
No word if there will be an appeal, but in the meantime, prepare for parking chaos if you live in those four states.
(Source: Associated Press)