Court Rules Chalking Parked Car Tires Violates Fourth Amendment

April 28, 2019 Updated: April 28, 2019

A federal court ruled that marking tires to enforce parking rules is like entering property without a warrant. The practice is now unconstitutional in four states.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the purpose of marking tires is to “raise revenue” and has nothing to do with a potential safety risk, Fox News reported.

Alison Taylor said she received more than 12 $15 tickets for going over the two-hour parking limit in Saginaw, Michigan. The city uses the practice of marking tires to keep track of how long a car is parked at the post.

Police officers mark the tires of cars to keep track of how long you've been parked in time limited spot. That's been deemed unconstitutional.

Posted by The New York Times on Thursday, April 25, 2019

Taylor’s lawyer, according to Fox News, argued that the city violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution over unreasonable searches.

The appeals court agreed with the claim.

“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 stated.

The court ruling applies to Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, which are covered by the 6th Circuit.

Physically marking a tire without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment –– the amendment that protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures –– a federal appeals court ruled.

Posted by NPR on Tuesday, April 23, 2019

“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, said in a court filing, as reported by NPR.

He argued that marking tires was similar to police secretly putting a GPS device on a vehicle without a proper warrant, which was the subject of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“We don’t think everyone deserves free parking,” Ellison told The Associated Press. “But the process Saginaw selected is unconstitutional. … I’m very glad the three judges who got this case took it seriously. It affects so many people.”

Taylor, on her Facebook page, said that law students would get to read about her case.

“That’s definitely the most exciting part!” she wrote, according to NPR. “I’ve helped change the law.”

The case will return to another federal court, as Ellison wants to certify the lawsuit as a class-action. That means it will make way for refunding people who got tickets, Fox reported.

He said Saginaw collects about $200,000 per year by issuing tickets via tire-chalking.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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