Chalking Tires Determined to be an Unreasonable Search

Like many cities, Saginaw’s parking enforcement unit chalked tires to determine just how long a car was parked, and then ticketed offenders. Over the course of three years, Alison Taylor received her fair share of parking tickets – fifteen to be exact.  Each ticket listed the date and time her tire was marked with the soft, white, porous, sedimentary rock.  Not wanting to chalk up another parking ticket, Taylor sued the City, alleging the parking enforcement officer violated her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches by placing chalk marks on her tires without her consent or a valid search warrant.  While the trial court dismissed the lawsuit, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals thought differently.  According to the appellate court, chalking tires was akin to placing a GPS devise on a vehicle – a practice the Supreme Court already determined was an unreasonable search because it is a trespass upon a constitutionally protected area to obtain information.  Because the Fourth Amendment does not proscribe all searches, the appellate court then had to determine if this search was reasonable.  It was not.  According to the Court, Saginaw not only lacked probable cause to perform the warrantless search, the City did not even have an individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.  Remember, Taylor’s tire was chalked before she did anything wrong.  The City’s  community caretaker exception argument proved equally unpersuasive.   Now drivers in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee can test those 2-hour parking restrictions knowing chalking tires is a parking enforcement practice of days gone by.   Allison Patricia Taylor v. City of Saginaw, 6th Cir. No 17-2126.