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City Should Look At Alternatives To Marking Tires

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stating that a police department’s chalking of tires during parking enforcement is unconstitutional doesn’t have the force of law in New York state.

Jamestown officials may want to start coming up with alternatives to chalking tires anyway.

Taylor v. City of Saginaw; Tabitha Hoskins arose in Saginaw, Mich., where a woman had received more than a dozen tickets for exceeding the city’s two-hour parking limit. Her lawyer argued that a parking patrol officer violated the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches.

The Court of Appeals relies on the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Jones, a 2012 case in which the government attached a GPS device to a car to track its movements. The Supreme Court held that the government’s trespass upon the vehicle to obtain information to the car’s movement was a search in an attempt to obtain information. The Court of Appeals also reasons that the search on vehicles that are parked legally, without probable cause or individualized suspicion of wrongdoing, is also unconstitutional.

Lastly, in the Michigan case, the court ruled the city has not shown how the search of chalking tires relates to public safety. Saginaw, Mich., did not show that the length or location of parking created a hazard or traffic impediment amounting to a public concern nor how delaying a search harms the community.

“The city points to the importance of ‘maintaining efficient, orderly parking.’ While the city is entitled to maintain efficient, orderly parking, the manner in which it chooses to do so is not without constitutional limitation. … 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 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals covers parts of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, so its ruling doesn’t directly affect Jamestown. But, it stands to reason that similar cases will be forthcoming in districts where chalking tires is a common practice. Chalking tires is a minor annoyance, but if more courts rule in a similar fashion to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Jamestown will find itself on the wrong end of an unconstitutional annoyance. Now is as good a time as any to look at alternatives.

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