Philippe Huguen / AFP / Getty Images
The next time park officials chalk their tires, they may act unconstitutional.
A federal appeals court ruled Monday that "chalking" is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The case was filed by Alison Taylor, a Michigan-born woman who calls the court a "frequent parking ticket recipient." The city of Saginaw, Michigan, uses chalk, like countless other cities across the country, to mark the tires of cars and enforce parking time limits.
By the time Taylor received her 15th quote in just a few short years, she decided to explore the city – and in particular the park keeper Tabitha Hoskins.
Hoskins, Taylor claimed in her lawsuit, was a "productive" Kreider. Each and every one of Taylor's 15 tickets was issued by Hoskins after chalking a tire and went back to see if Taylor's car had moved. This chalk, Taylor argued, was unconstitutional.
"Crossing a privately-owned vehicle parked on a public street to collect information with a chalk sign to eventually impose a government sanction is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment," wrote Tayles attorney Philip Ellison in a lawsuit ,
A panel of three judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit unanimously agreed. Chalking tires are a kind of abuse, wrote Judge Bernice Donald to the jury, and a warrant is needed. The decision concerns the Sixth Circuit, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
The Fourth Amendment protects people from "unreasonable searches and seizures." To determine whether a violation has occurred, the court first asks whether the behavior of the government is a search warrant. If so, you will be asked if the search was appropriate.
The court found that chalking is indeed a "search" for the purposes of the fourth amendment because government officials are entering a constitutionally protected area to obtain information. Just as the 2012 Supreme Court ruled that sticking a GPS tracker to a car was a "search," Chalk pulled on a tire to find out how long it had parked, the court wrote.
And this search is not reasonable, the court said. The city is looking for vehicles "that are legally parked without a probable cause or even" individual suspicion of misconduct "- the test of adequacy standards," the court wrote.
The intriguing opinion of CA6 that a tire is being calculated today for the enforcement of parking – to see if the car has violated parking rules for a while – violates the 4th Amendment. Not sure where to get it, but funny topic. Here is a thread. https://t.co/2MtCtAb9e6 #N pic.twitter.com/GOGjL0RUGk
– Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) April 22, 2019
"We do not think everyone deserves free parking," the lawyer, Philip Ellison, told The Associated Press. "But the process that Saginaw has chosen is unconstitutional … I'm very glad that the three judges who got this case took him seriously, he affects so many people."
Law professor Orin Kerr said he had never seen a chalk case before, and said police officers could bypass the constitutional issue by simply taking a picture of the car instead of using chalk. "In this way, the park enforcement can experience the placement of the car [without] physically mark it, "Kerr wrote,
On her Facebook page, Taylor – the recipient of frequent parking tickets – was pleased that future law students would read about her case while studying the Fourth Amendment. "That's definitely the most exciting part!" She wrote. "I helped change the law."