Court Balks Chalk!

Court Balks Chalk!

I’m a weirdo and I admit it. I love reading case law. I especially love cases that put a new spin on ordinary things. And here’s a doozy:

Everyone is familiar with the parking enforcement practice of putting some chalk on your tire to keep track of how long you’ve been parked. The enforcement person comes by, stripes your tire, and comes back 2 hours later. If you’re still there: ticket time!

I have never heard anyone suggest that there was anything unlawful about the practice. Common sense dictates that they have to have some way of enforcing parking time limits. You can’t expect someone to have a photographic memory of every car/license plat they see when making their rounds.


A Federal Appeals Court just ruled that putting some chalk on your tire is a violation of the Fourth Amendment!

The case involves a woman named Alison Taylor. Apparently, she gets many parking tickets and doesn’t like it. So she sued the city of Saginaw, Michigan in Federal Court.

The reasoning goes like this:

The Government needs a warrant to search your body, home, or vehicles unless you consent.

A search occurs when the Government trespasses onto your body or property.

The touching of the tire with the chalk is a trespass onto your car.

The trespass is for the purpose of getting information.


All warrantless searches are presumed to be unconstitutional, unless a specific exception in the law applies.

The obvious possible exception here would be the automobile exception. It provides that your car can be searched without a warrant if the Government has probable cause to believe the car contains evidence of a crime. But when they chalk your tire, they have no belief that any crime has even occurred. So, no dice!

Now this decision only applies to the Sixth Circuit, which covers Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. But it sets a precedent that will no doubt lead to similar cases elsewhere, and, maybe, a trip all the way to the Supreme Court!

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