Taylor v. City of Saginaw, 2021 WL 3745345 (6th Cir. 2021)
Between 2014 and 2017, Alison Taylor received 14 parking tickets “for allegedly exceeding the time limit of a parking spot.” Each ticket was issued by Officer Tabitha Hoskins, described by Taylor as “the most prolific issuer of parking tickets” in the City of Saginaw. Hoskins used the time-honored method of chalking tires and photographing violator vehicles.
Taylor sued, alleging the tire chalking violated her Fourth Amendment rights. After nearly five years of costly litigation and many court hearings in federal trial and appellate courts, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Taylor’s Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution had been violated by Officer Hoskins’ application of the tiny chalk mark on her car tire.
The court held that the alleged unconstitutionality of suspicion-less tire chalking was not clearly established at the time of the egregious chalking.
The Fourth Amendment protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,” including their rubber tires. Applying the trespass analysis of the Fourth Amendment detailed in United States v. Jones (565 U.S. 400 (2012)), the appellate court held that “chalking is a search for Fourth Amendment purposes.” Citing Brigham City v. Stuart (547 U.S. 398 (2006)), the court noted, “Because tire chalking is a search that defendants conducted without an authorizing warrant, it is presumptively unreasonable.”
For the readers concerned with the fate of Officer Hoskins for applying miniscule chalk marks, fear not. Qualified immunity exists for just such weighty cases. The court held that the alleged unconstitutionality of suspicion-less tire chalking was not clearly established at the time of the egregious chalking. Thus, “the most prolific issuer of parking tickets” in the City of Saginaw is entitled to qualified immunity.
This blog was featured in our Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys.