Appeals Court: Tire Chalking Unconstitutional

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must not have enough important issues in need of court rulings.

source: Columbus Dispatch

The age-old parking-enforcement practice of tire-chalking is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled Monday, saying that it violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a first-of-its-kind decision, ruled that marking a car’s tires to gather information is a form of trespass requiring a warrant, similar to police attaching a GPS to a vehicle to track a suspected drug dealer.

Parking attendants across the country have been chalking tires with big white lines for decades in zones without meters to enforce time limits and issue tickets. It’s a substantial source of revenue for many cities.

The decision, while undoubtedly bringing joy to parking scofflaws everywhere, could cost some cities money, either from lost revenue or having to install more meters.

“…….seems easy enough these days for parking enforcers to just take a photo of the car, or even just a close-up photo of the tire, rather than chalk it. … No 4A issues then.”

Orin Kerr
Fourth Amendment expert
University of Southern California

The 6th Circuit covers Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. The case came from Saginaw, Michigan, where lawyer Philip Ellison engaged in a Facebook rant in 2016 after his law partner, sitting in his chalked car, got ticketed as the two talked by phone.

Ellison said a friend, Alison Taylor, saw the Facebook post and got in touch to complain about receiving her 15th $15 ticket in two years for parking for more than two hours downtown where there are no meters. Taylor, as the plaintiff, and Ellison, as her attorney, filed a civil-rights suit against Saginaw and a named parking-enforcement officer who Ellison claims “issues more than 95 percent of the tickets.”

“We made a federal case out of tire-chalking.”

Philip Ellison

Calamity Jane