Chalking and Entering: Circuit Court Decides that Marking Car Tires is Unconstitutional
For decades, city officials have used chalk to track how long cars have been parked in areas without meters.
On Monday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH decided that “chalking” is a violation of the 4th Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches (along the same lines as breaking and entering).
To validate the unprecedented ruling, the judges cited a 2012 Supreme Court decision which deemed it unconstitutional for police to attach GPS devices to vehicles without a warrant to track criminals. Monday’s ruling considers “chalking” similarly inappropriate.
The Cincinnati court’s ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Philip Ellison, a lawyer from Saginaw, MI whose friend Alison Taylor claims to have received 15 parking tickets in 2 years from the same parking enforcement officer
The strange case was dismissed by a US District Court in Michigan, which argued that chalking was not unreasonable.
“Chalking tires has been used for over 60 years…and is widely-used across the country as a non-invasive way to keep track of overtime parking,” said Ben Kirby, a city official in St. Petersburg, FL.
But the appellate judges in Cincinnati agreed with Taylor in her argument that chalking was – in effect – a search made without probable cause.
The purpose of marking tires is to “raise revenue,” not to protect the public, said the court. “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.”
Monday’s decision, which applies only to Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, sends the case back to the court in Michigan.
Editor’s note: This may seem like the smallest, most insignificant breach of the 4th amendment, but to us at PBP, any breach is too much. I’ve been the victim of this, and while the punishment is certainly not unbearable, the fact that my property was marked by the government without my permission made me very angry (I get that way sometimes…).
We all know that this has nothing to do with public safety. It has everything to do with raising money for local municipalities. In my opinion, this is in the same category as automatic traffic cameras. We are actually perverting our public justice system to generate revenue. Are we that petty? Do we really want America to go that way?
In my opinion, this was the right call, and I am glad that someone had the guts to take it that far.