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City Parking Enforcement Practice Changes After Court Ruling (Subscriber Content)

By Bob Conrad

The practice of chalking vehicle tires by parking enforcement was ruled unconstitutional this week by a three-judge panel with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges deemed the practice by municipal parking enforcement operations a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The City of Reno is one of the municipalities that chalks tires. But it is changing that practice.

“The City has become aware of the 6th Circuit’s ruling regarding chalking of vehicles and violation of the 4th Amendment,” said city spokesperson Jonathan Humbert. “Although the ruling does not have a direct impact on the 9th Circuit, we have decided to incorporate this ruling into our parking enforcement practices.”

The case stemmed from a Michigan woman who received numerous parking tickets. She sued Saginaw, Mich. after her 15th ticket, saying that chalking her car was unconstitutional, amounting to trespass because her vehicle is private property (basically).

The court agreed.

“[Saginaw] does not demonstrate, in or logic, that the need to deter drivers from exceeding the time permitted for parking — before they have even done so — is sufficient to justify a warrantless search under the community caretaker rationale,” the judges wrote. “Because we chalk this practice up to a regulatory exercise, rather than a community-caretaking function, we [reverse the district court’s dismissal of the case].”

The City of Reno will continue its parking enforcement. What’s different?

“[The] plan at this point is to chalk the ground near the vehicle,” Humbert said.

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