Chalking tires to enforce parking rules is unconstitutional, court finds

Marking your tires with chalk is trespassing, not law enforcement, the federal appeals panel said in a Michigan case.

A traffic enforcement officer chalks tires while walking the streets of Historic Old Town Arvada, Colorado, in August 2014.Kent Nishimura / Denver Post via Getty Images file

April 22, 2019, 6:24 PM PDT / Updated April 23, 2019, 7:23 AM PDT
By Alex Johnson

That parking officer who swipes a chalk mark on your tire to keep track of how long you've been parked is violating the Constitution, a federal appeals court panel found Monday.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reinstated a 2017 case brought by Alison Taylor, who was issued 15 parking tickets in three years in Saginaw, Michigan, by the same parking enforcement officer, who's described in the suit as the city's "most prolific issuer of parking tickets."

Taylor argued that marking tires with chalk constituted an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. But a U.S. district judge in Michigan dismissed the suit in 2017, writing that even if chalking a tire is a search, it's a reasonable one, because a piece of chalk isn't an "information-gathering device" that could violate Taylor's privacy, like a GPS tracker, for example.

The appeals panel Monday agreed that chalking a tire is a search. But they disagreed that it was a reasonable search.