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"Chalking Tires" is an Unconstitutional Search

In the wake of U.S. v. Jones (GPS device attached to the car to monitor movement- illegal search), the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has rendered a similar determination. That is, the monitoring of one’s position constitutes a “search” at its initiation if there’s not some warrant exception that’s justified at inception.

In Taylor v. The City of Saginaw, -- F.3d --, 2019 WL 1757953 (2019), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the local police practice of marking or “chalking tires” was a search at its outset. The police would chalk the tires of legally parked vehicles at meters. Then, later the police could determine that the vehicle had not been moved after the time on the meter had expired. A ticket would be issued.

The Court determined that the practice was not a community caretaking function because the act of marking the tires occurred when the vehicle was legally parked. The community caretaking function would normally be an exception to the warrant requirement if the search itself was justified at its inception. For instance, drivers of vehicles that are pulled over and arrested for DUI are taken from the scene. The officer, pursuant to their “community caretaking function” must either get in and move the vehicle to a secure location or impound it. A search pursuant to the impoundment is lawful as long as it’s done within specific guidelines.

Many of our clients are arrested for DUI because police have “chalked” their tires at a local bar or pub. The police can determine how long the individual has been in the bar and that the car has been moved after the client has left the bar. Thus, giving the police some level of suspicion that the individual may likely have been drinking for 2 hours, for instance. This practice should be challenged in the future as an improper search from the inception, therefore, all evidence obtained after the “chalking” is subject to suppression.

If you have questions or need a lawyer, contact us at Shaffer & Engle.