Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Federal Court Finds Tire Chalking Unconstitutional, Orders Payment for Each Swipe of the Chalk

For Immediate Release | Aug 08, 2022

On August 8, 2022, the US Federal District Court in Bay City, Michigan issued its long-awaited decision and final judgment in the legal challenge to 'tire chalking' - the practice of surreptitiously placing chalk on the tires of privately-owned vehicles (without a valid warrant or consent) to gather information about the movement (or non-movements) of publicly parked vehicles. Federal Judge Thomas L. Ludington today held and confirmed that tire chalking is unconstitutional.

Five years ago, Plaintiff Alison Taylor and her attorneys Philip L. Ellison (of Outside Legal Counsel PLC) and Matthew Gronda filed a federal class action lawsuit to challenge the long-time practice familiar to anyone who visits a downtown district - tire chalking. Parking enforcement officials have used tire chalking as an enforcement mechanism to quickly but inaccurately determine if a vehicle has been parked too long. The federal lawsuit questioned that such practice violates the Fourth Amendment because placing chalk on a tire to extract "information" requires a search warrant.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The final judgment comes after the case has twice been rejected by the local federal court and twice reversed by the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Cincinnati, the local federal court certified the matter as a class action and final arguments were submitted for ruling.

The final judgment provides the City of Saginaw is "DIRECTED to pay forthwith nominal damages of $1.00 to each member of the subclass for each time that Defendants marked such members' vehicles with chalk." Additional details on payments are not yet available.

The judgment is subject to further reconsideration and appeal by either side back to the Sixth Circuit.