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Sixth Circuit rules chalking of car tires by parking enforcement an unreasonable search

Quinn Dombrowski

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that it is unconstitutional for parking enforcement to chalk car tires.

Parking enforcement in Saginaw used chalk on car tires to determine whether a car had been in the same spot for too long. That is a practice used by many cities across the state.

But Allison Taylor sued the city arguing that the chalk constituted an unreasonable search.

Philip Ellison is an Attorney representing Taylor.

“We’re very pleased by the outcome by the fact that it is now unconstitutional in, it appears, four states for the government to vandalize our cars in the name of parking.”

Ellison said lower courts threw the case out claiming that the chalking was part of “community caretaking.”

“Our argument was that this whole idea of parking was for punishment purposes to make money, it wasn’t designed to be for the greater good of the community and the Sixth Circuit overturned the local judges finding that this community caretaking doctrine applied in this case.”

In the unanimous decision the Sixth Circuit wrote they disagreed with lower courts because  “we chalk this practice up to a regulatory exercise, rather than a community-caretaking function.”

Ellison said the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to a lower court to decide if Taylor will be awarded money to recoup what she’s paid in parking tickets.

“We’re also seeking a refund for everybody else in the city of Saginaw who also got a parking ticket because of this illegal, now unconstitutional, method of parking enforcement.”

Attorneys representing the City of Saginaw did not respond to our request for comment.