Legal Edge: US Court of Appeals rules in Saginaw tire-chalking case

Legal Edge

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — In the spring of 2019, we reported on a federal lawsuit involving the chalking of tires by the city of Saginaw to enforce parking regulations.

The case was recently decided for a second time by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The outcome is the focus of tonight’s Legal Edge, with local attorney Bryan Waldman.

Between 2014 and 2017, a woman in the City of Saginaw received around 15 parking citations. All of the citations were parking-related, so parking enforcement put a chalk marker on or near her tires to prove that the car hadn’t been moved.

She challenged all of those citations, saying it was a violation of our constitutional rights. More specifically, it was a violation of her fourth amendment protection against unreasonable searches.

The trial ruled that this was not a violation of her constitutional rights, and so she appealed to the US Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which ruled in her favor.

In a nutshell, the court ruled that the chalk marks were indeed considered a search.

“As a general rule, whenever there’s a search, you need a warrant. The only time you don’t need a warrant is if the government can show that some exception to the requirement for a warrant applies,” said Waldman. “the court looked at two of the recognized exceptions and said they don’t apply here city of Saginaw.”

The Court of Appeals also said that parking is not a risk to public welfare and isn’t a highly regulated industry so the exception doesn’t apply.

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