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Court Does Some Chalk Talk

Court Does Some Chalk Talk

Have you ever been annoyed or frustrated by having white chalk marks placed on your tires after you’ve legally parked to do some shopping or run some errands?  Apart from that, you feel violated that some unknown person just went up and marked up your vehicle.

Well, now you may be able to fight back.  A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit unanimously agreed. Chalking tires is a kind of trespass, Judge Bernice Donald wrote for the panel, and it requires a warrant. The decision affects the 6th Circuit, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

In other words, the appellate court found that chalking violates your 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The case in question involved Alison Taylor who had received 15 parking tickets and got fed up.

The city “commences its search on vehicles that are parked legally, without probable cause or even so much as ‘individualized suspicion of wrongdoing’ — the touchstone of the reasonableness standard,” the court’s opinion states.

traditional law on searches of vehicles had been upended by the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision restricting the powers of police to use GPS devices to track criminal suspects.

In United States v. Jones, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said that attaching the tracking device was a form of trespass on private property by police that requires a warrant.  Justice Donald, writing the majority opinion, saw a similarity in the GPS case and chalking.

So, why not use a different method to enforce parking rules?  As Fourth Amendment expert Orin Kerr of the University of Southern California law school tweeted, it “seems easy enough these days for parking enforcers to just take a photo of the car, or even just a close-up photo of the tire, rather than chalk it. . . . No 4A issues then.”

The 6th Circuit covers the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee; the court sits in Cincinnati.

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