Fourth Amendment cases usually cover the big issues of the Search and Seizure Act: Can police enter your home without a warrant? (Not usually, but perhapsCan they use thermal imaging cameras to look inside your house from the other side of the street without a warrant? (NoDo police need a court order to use drug sniffing dogs on your car? (No again, Inhalations of these drugs do not count as searches.)
These can all feel extremely invasive – the kind of thing that the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect against. Not quite like a parking cop using chalk to mark your tires on track to keep track of how long you’ve been parked somewhere. But the The Federal Court just ruled that the search is soAnd one unconstitutional if officers do so without your consent or a court order.
Community caregivers or revenue collectors?
Alison Taylor collected 15 parking violations over a three-year period in Saginaw, Michigan, each by parking enforcement officer Tabitha Hoskins, and each after Hoskins “printed” her tires. Ultimately she sued Hoskins and the city, claiming that the chalk “violated its Fourth Amendment’s right to be free from unreasonable research.” While her lawsuit was dismissed by the District Court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned, “because we are attributing this practice to a regulatory practice, rather than a community welfare function,” she said.
The Sixth Circuit initially ruled that placing chalk on a person’s car constituted a legal search, with a government official deeming a constitutionally protected area to obtain information. Then, and most importantly, the court had to decide whether the research was reasonable. Saginaw attempted to claim that he was allowed to chalk tires under the “caretaker-community” exception from the order clause. But the judges were not convinced:
The city has failed to bear the burden of proving that the caretaker exception applies in this case. First, based on these facts, the city fails to elucidate the relevance of this research to public safety. The city does not demonstrate that the location or the length of time Taylor’s car has stopped has created the kind of “danger” or traffic obstacle that amounts to a public safety concern. The city also does not demonstrate that delaying the search may lead to “injury or continuing harm to society.” On the contrary, at the time of the research, Taylor’s car was parked legally in a suitable parking lot, and it posed no safety hazards whatsoever. Because the purpose of chalk is to increase revenue, not mitigate overall risks, the city was not acting in its “role”. [a] Acting society. “
Hey, you – get off my picture!
But before you go shouting at the parking cops where you live, you should know that the ruling only applies to the states covered by the Sixth Circuit: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. And while similar lawsuits are sure to follow in other circles, cities, counties, and smart countries can only circumvent the ruling by obtaining drivers’ consent through signals or notifications. (Just how All drivers “agree” to undergo a blood alcohol test Only by obtaining a driver’s license.)
But, if you’re anything like Alison Taylor and parking tickets go up, being sued under the Fourth Amendment might not be a bad idea.