STOP! Don’t Chalk That Tire!
Recently, a panel of judges from the Sixth District Court of Appeals ruled that a city’s use of “chalking” tires to enforce parking regulations is a warrantless search under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, it isn’t a legal way to enforce parking time limits.
Chalk marks are used to determine how long a car has been parked in the same parking place. If the car stays beyond the city-established time limit, the car is tagged with a ticket, which can cost car owners a substantial amount of cash. In California, a single parking ticket can cost at least $68.
In this case, the woman challenging the “chalk clock” received 15 parking citations within three years, apparently from one particular parking enforcement officer. Initially, the city won the case. The trial judge said the city was simply performing a “community caretaker” function, not a law enforcement function. Therefore, the Fourth Amendment search limitations did not apply.
However, the Sixth District Court of Appeals didn’t see it that way. U.S. Circuit Court Judge Bernice Donald found the city had not proven chalking tires relates to public safety.
The city did not demonstrate how the length of time the vehicle was parked in the same spot created a hazard or traffic impediment risking public safety, she said. The city also did not prove the vehicle caused injury or ongoing harm to the community, according to the judge.
Although this appellate decision does not apply directly to California parking enforcement agencies, it may be a case you can cite if you get a ticket for parking three hours in a two-hour spot. There probably aren’t many cases that address chalk clocking in any district of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Chalk this one into your memory.
Some clever lawyers may also be looking to this decision to challenge other parking enforcement actions—such as requiring a vehicle to be moved to another street or completely around the block, not just to another parking spot on the same street, to avoid violating time-limited parking.
How can parking enforcement suddenly apply that the time a vehicle is parked in one spot to every other parking spot on the street? We will keep you informed as to how the local communities, law enforcement and the courts deal with this chalk ruling and potential impact in California.