Chalking Tires for Parking Tickets Ruled Unconstitutional

A panel of three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit determined that chalking tires to find out how long a car has been in a parking spot is unconstitutional and constitutes trespassing.

This decision was made unanimously, and will affect states in the 6th Circuit, including Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

The panel of judges agreed with a Michigan woman who filed a class action lawsuit over claims that the practice of chalking tires violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from “unreasonable search and seizure.”

Plaintiff Alison Taylor alleged that chalking tires constituted a search without a warrant, and the court agreed.

This panel re-instated the case brought forward by Taylor in 2017. Taylor was reportedly issued 15 parking tickets over the course of three years in Saginaw, Michigan. Reportedly, these 15 tickets were all issued by the same parking enforcement officer, defendant Tabitha Hoskins.

According to the class action lawsuit, these parking tickets were assigned after Taylor’s tires were marked with chalk, which enabled Hoskins to see that her car had been in a parking spot longer than allowed.

Though searches without a warrant are allowed if a public safety concern is involved, Taylor argued that a parking violation does not constitute a public safety violation, and is therefore unlawful.

She filed her parking ticket tire chalking class action lawsuit against the City of Saginaw and against Tabitha Hoskins, in her official and individuals capacities.

U.S. Circuit Judge Berince Bouie Donald elaborated on the court’s decision by saying that parking too long in a parking spot does not cause “injury or ongoing harm to the community.” This comment was made in response to the city’s argument that parking enforcement is part of “community caretaking,” which would make the chalking practice permissible as a form of search without a warrant.

Judge Donald went on to say that “there has been a trespass in this case because the City made intentional physical contact with Taylor’s vehicle.” According to Judge Donald, the city is indeed allowed to regulate public parking, but the ways in which it does are still subject to limits per the constitution.

NPR noted that the court determined that the search, or chalking, wasn’t reasonable, because it is done to vehicles “that are parked legally, without probable cause, or even so much as ‘individualized suspicion of wrongdoing’ — the touchstone of the reasonableness standard.”

NPR goes on to report that law professor Orin Kerr noted that parking enforcement officers could “sidestep the constitutional issue altogether by simply taking a photo of the car rather than using chalk.” Kerr said, “that way parking enforcement can learn the placement of the car [without] physically marking it.”

Taylor is represented by Philip Ellison of Outside Legal Counsel PLC and by Matthew E. Gronda.

The Unconstitutional Tire Chalking Class Action Lawsuit is Alison Patricia Taylor v. City of Saginaw, et al., Case No. 17-2126, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

*This article was expanded from original source at Top Class Actions.


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