The three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati decided chalking tires constitutes an unreasonable search, which is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 6th Circuit covers three states and Michigan, where the case originated. The other three are Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Attorney Philip Ellison started the challenge in Saginaw, Mich., with a Facebook complaint in 2016 that said his law partner was ticketed while sitting in his vehicle. A woman saw the post and told Ellison she’d received 15 tickets from chalked tires in two years. Ellison sued Saginaw and a parking enforcement officer.
A lower court dismissed the suit in 2017, ruling that chalking amounts to a reasonable search as part of officers’ “community care-taking” responsibility. The judges also said chalk isn’t an information-gathering device that violates privacy.
“The city commences its search on vehicles that are parked legaly, without probable cause or even so much as ‘individualized suspicion of wrongdoing’ … the touchstone of the reasonable standard,” U.S. Circuit Judge Bernice Bouie Donald wrote.
Donald dismissed the “caretaker” exception, saying parked vehicles aren’t a safety risk.
Chalking has been used for decades in areas without parking meters to determine the amount of time a vehicle has been in a particular stall.