Federal Court Outlaws Chalking – But Whose Fault is it?


Federal Court Outlaws Chalking – But Whose Fault is it?

A federal court in the Midwest has ruled that chalking is no longer legal in five midwestern states. Read about it on parknews.biz.

What the heck is that all about?

It seems that a lawyer in Michigan took a parking citation all the way to Federal Court and won. The court ruled that chalking was similar to entering a person’s house without a warrant. Wow!

The City of Saginaw, MI argued that the Supreme Court had carved out a “community caretaker” ruling stating that cities could ignore the ‘warrant requirement’ if the goal was to mitigate a public hazard. Get this:

Appeals court Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, reversed.

She said 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.

Donald said the chalking of Taylor’s car was just like the GPS installation, a trespass for the purpose of gathering incriminating information and therefore a Fourth Amendment violation when done without a warrant.

She dismissed the “caretaker” exception, saying that Taylor’s vehicle posed no safety risk. The city was trying to raise revenue, not “mitigate [a] public hazard,” she wrote. Bold Face mine.

Where did she get the idea that the parking fines were to ‘raise revenue’? I wonder what the decision would have been if the judge understood that parking enforcement was to protect a public resource (Parking) and to ensure there was enough parking for all who needed it.

I’ll tell you where she got that idea? She got it from us. We are intransigent when it comes to enforcement. Just today there was a two-page article in the LA Times about a woman who took two years to fight a parking and towing ticket. The parking department fought her every step of the way. Eventually she won. Read about it here.

This is the kind of publicity that just destroys us. The judge, down deep, understood that parking enforcement was an evil and she needed to find a way to slap it down. There’s not a lot of clarity here, but a lot of emotion.


BTW — You can still photograph vehicles, use LPR, and other methods, as long as you don’t touch the car. And YES, you can still put a citation on the car after you have determined it is in violation.

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John Van Horn

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