Marking a tire with chalk to track how long a car has been parked is unconstitutional, per a first-of-its-kind ruling that could force cities to adopt new approaches to parking enforcement. The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee on Monday found tire-chalking is an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, reports the Washington Post. Alison Taylor's lawsuit—brought after she was issued 15 parking tickets in Saginaw, Mich., from 2014 to 2017—was initially dismissed with a US district judge arguing chalk isn't an "information-gathering device," per NBC News. But while two judges on a three-judge appeals panel agreed that using chalk could be considered a search, all three disagreed it constituted a "reasonable" one, with Judge Bernice Bouie Donald noting tire-chalking was carried out "without probable cause or even so much as 'individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.'"
What's more, the "intentional physical contact with Taylor's vehicle" represents a trespass for the purpose of gathering incriminating information, Donald wrote, referencing the 2012 Supreme Court decision that blocked police from attaching GPS devices to vehicles without a warrant. Though the earlier decision had acknowledged an exemption under "community caretaking," Donald noted there was no justification for a warrantless search as parking violations don't cause "injury or ongoing harm." The city was essentially raising revenue, she wrote. For some cities, the decision could mean lost revenue or the additional cost of new meters, per the Post. University of Southern California law professor Orin Kerr has a simple suggestion, however. "Take a photo of the car, or even just a close-up photo of the tire, rather than chalk it," he tweeted. (Read more parking ticket stories.)