Chalk One Up For Liberty

OK the pun is silly. An appeals court has overturned a previous ruling that allowed for tires to be chalked as part of parking enforcement.

In rendering its April 22 opinion, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a previous U.S. District Court ruling that granted the dismissal of a lawsuit against the city of Saginaw.

“Because we chalk this practice up to a regulatory exercise, rather than a community-caretaking function, we reverse,” reads a portion of the 10-page opinion stating the practice violated the Fourth Amendment.

In April 2017, attorneys Philip L. Ellison and Matthew E. Gronda filed a lawsuit on behalf of Alison P. Taylor in U.S. District Court in Bay City. Named as defendants in the suit are the city of Saginaw and Tabitha Hoskins, employed as a city parking official.

The suit states that since 2014, Hoskins has issued Taylor 14 parking tickets — some for $15, others for $30 — for allegedly exceeding the 2-hour limit on a parking spot in Old Town Saginaw, where she works. Hoskins was able to tell that Taylor’s vehicles had surpassed the time limit by marking her tires with chalk, the suit alleges.

The judges’ opinion states that “chalking is a search for Fourth Amendment purposes,” as well as disagreeing with the district court that the warrantless search of Taylor’s vehicle was reasonable because of a lesser expectation of privacy with automobiles.

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