Weighty Legal Matters


Weighty Legal Matters

It goes like this: A woman received 14 parking tickets for overstaying the two hour limit on the streets of Saginaw, MI. She found a lawyer with nothing better to do and took the city to court, claiming her fourth amendment rights had been violated because the PEO used chalk to mark the tires on her car as a way to prove she overstayed the limit. The city fought the lawsuit. The court agreed with the city. She then kicked it to the court of appeals and this week the appeals court agreed with her. It’s being kicked back to the lower court for whatever happens next. This will affect chalking in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

I guess if you consider all the ramification of a two inch chalk mark on the bottom of your tire, you could twist yourself into knots and claim ‘unreasonable search and seizure.” Certainly technology has moved on so manual chalking is no longer required (Bill Franklin call your office). The PEO in Saginaw told the court that she also kept note of scofflaws in her personal notebook.

This could be a boon to our industry tech LPR providers. There are a number that have cameras you attached to a vehicle and it serves the same purpose as chalking but you can do a lot more area and a much shorter period of time. However I have an issue with the whole concept of this type of enforcement.

Let’s say I park at 9 AM in a two hour zone. The “Chalker”, manual or electronic, comes by at 10:30 and tags my car. I leave at noon. I have parked for three hours in the two hour zone. Scott free.

I suppose it has to do with the neighborhood. If it’s a commercial area, then enforce it as much as possible. If it’s a residential area, then if you miss a few (as in the example above), so be it.

I’m not sure just how seriously the court took this case. To wit:

Despite the weighty constitutional question, there were light moments when the court heard arguments on July 29.“I haven’t gotten many parking tickets,” said Judge Joan Larsen, a former Michigan Supreme Court justice. “Only because I have a reserved parking spot.”

This has to be frustrating to small cities with limited budgets. The court is basically saying that if you want to enforce properly, you have to go high tech.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. Not all high tech can be 100% efficient with the “park at 9 am and leave at noon” example. If the city uses LPR scanning vehicle, just like the chalker, it will need to come twice to record an overstay. Accurate enforcement can only be achieved with the static monitoring tools – cameras on sensors. In the on street environment, low cost ground based vehicle detection sensors take an easy win over cameras – both in terms of unit economics and accuracy. Simply stick the sensor to the road and leave it for 10 years. Even the AI all-mighty Google recently realised the natural advantage of sensors over cameras and Sidewalk Labs are now pushing in that direction with their MVP.

  2. It doesn’t need to be high tech – the normal way of enforcing this type of restriction in the UK is to note the position of the valves on the wheels (e.g. nearside front at 2 o’clock, nearside rear at 7 o’clock) along with the registration and location of the vehicle.

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