Saline Police have ceased the practice of “chalking tires” to identify overstayers in the city’s municipal parking lots and on city streets.
The decision comes after the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a lawyer who argued chalking tires violates the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches.
(Download the ruling.)
“The city does not demonstrate, in law 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 court said. Michigan is one four states under the jurisdiction of the court.
In the City of Saline, police officers have used the practice of chalking tires to determine which vehicles have parked in spaces longer than permitted. Overstayers, when caught, can be penalized with parking tickets. But that practice has been halted, according to Police Chief Jerrod Hart, who has been watching the case.
“Once the decision was reached we ceased the practice of chalking tires via a direct order from my office to all staff,” Hart said.
The order to cease chalking tires has been discussed at shift briefings and with the Volunteers in Public Safety team.
For now, police are not enforcing the four-hour limits in city limits, which are supposed to be in effect from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The court decision adds yet another wrinkle to a public parking issue that has vexed city leaders for years. The city and Saline Main Street are working on recommendations for downtown parking.
Mayor Brian Marl said parking enforcement will remain a priority, even if the approach changes.
"While I have not had the opportunity to speak with staff or legal counsel regarding this issue, it is a matter we are following closely, and the City of Saline will certainly comply with case law or any legal decisions. While our approach may change, parking management and enforcement in our downtown will remain a priority,” Marl said.
Hart said he’s working with city staff and the city’s legal representation on alternatives for parking enforcement. In the meantime, Hart urged residents to follow the ordinance.
“In my nearly 30 years of law enforcement, this is not the first time law enforcement has been required to adapt policies, procedures and practices due to case law,” Hart said. “In the interim, I encourage all persons who utilize our municipal parking lots and timed-restricted parking spaces on city streets to follow the time limits for parking. Not only is this the ordinance, but it makes parking available to others looking to enjoy our beautiful downtown.”
The city and officials from Main Street are working to solve a perceived parking problem in downtown Saline. Some downtown business owners believe existing parking standards are too lax. They say the four-hour limits and periodic enforcement aren’t enough to keep employees from taking parking spaces meant for customers. City and Main Street officials have been negotiating with Key Bank to use their often vacant parking lot of Michigan Avenue. Another option is to reduce parking limits to three hours.
That reduction wouldn’t solve much if police can’t enforce the limit. One option for enforcement while avoiding the Fourth Amendment concern may be to use cameras and/or smartphone apps, according to a column on Reason.com. That same column suggested this ruling may be misunderstood, and that the court wasn’t offering a full ruling on the constitutionality of the search (chalking the tires).