Court Rules Chalking Tires To Enforce Parking Laws Is Unconstitutional

By Bill Galluccio

April 23, 2019

The City of Arvada is enforcing parking restrictions downtown, ticketing cars for staying too long.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati just made it more difficult for police officers to enforce parking rules. The panel ruled that using chalk to mark the tires of vehicles is a violation of the Constitution. The court reinstated a 2017 lawsuit filed by Alison Taylor, who received 15 parking tickets over a three year in Saginaw, Michigan. She says the same officer wrote her all 15 tickets and would chalk the tires on her car to determine if she was parked in the spot for too long. Taylor claimed that placing a chalk mark on her tire was a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights.

"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 three-judge panel agreed and unanimously ruled that the her case should be reinstated. U.S. Circuit Judge Bernice Donald wrote that marking cars with chalk is considered a search and violates the Fourth Amendment because it targets "vehicles that are parked legally, without probable cause or even so much as 'individualized suspicion of wrongdoing' — the touchstone of the reasonableness standard."

Judge Donald even went as far as saying that marking the cars with chalk should be considered trespassing "because the City made intentional physical contact with Taylor's vehicle."

The case will now head back to the U.S. District Court in Bay City, Michigan.

Photo: Getty Images

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