Federal Appeals Court Rules Parking Chalk Unconstitutional

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Call it a win for motorists, as the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that in certain circumstances the marking of tires on parked vehicles with chalk amounts to an unreasonable search and seizure.

As our American readers should all know, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is protected by the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, and here the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of an interesting argument to find that chalk marks on parked vehicles rising to this level of thinking.

The crux of the story centers around the town of Saginaw, Michigan, which has been using tire chalk to measure the time a vehicle is parked in designated parking zones. 

The court heard an interesting legal argument that said that the marking of vehicles with chalk (a long used method for parking enforcement) was no different legally than a police officer placing a GPS tracker on a vehicle – an act that would require a warrant, and the subject of a 2012 US Supreme Court ruling.

Adding that the chalk marks are done while a vehicle owner has possibly committed no crime only elevates the act by parking enforcement officers, which the three-judge panel in the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals deemed became a warrantless search and seizure.

“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 said in its ruling.

The effect of this ruling is that the use of parking chalk will be deemed unconstitutional in the region that the 6th Circuit presides over, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

It also means that cases in other jurisdictions can cite this ruling as non-binding precedent in their own fights against meter maids…and that is a fight that all motorists can get behind.

Will other Circuits in the US Federal Courts follow the lead of the 6th Circuit? That is hard to say. The reasoning by the court is certainly an interesting one, though the logic does suffer from some fallacies.

It is of note that though the court seemed to pass part of its judgment on Saginaw’s use of parking enforcement for revenue generation, with court documents showing that the city has generated up to $200,000 a year in parking tickets via chalk marks.

Source: AP via Autoblog

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.