‘Historic’ ruling after judge deems chalking tires unconstitutional

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 10:04 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) - A federal judge ruled on Tuesday the city of Saginaw cannot chalk tires without a warrant.

The ruling involved an estimated 4,800 parking tickets in a class-action lawsuit.

This lawsuit has been making its way through the legal system for about five years. One of the lead attorneys, Phillip Ellison, tells TV5 it is historic for the city of Saginaw.

“Our hometown is the first place in the country to decide that chalking tires is something that requires a warrant when public officials chalk those tires of cars with the goal of snagging those dollars in the form of parking tickets,” Ellison said.

Ellison explained how chalking a tire in a public place became a constitutional issue.

“The fourth amendment provides a clear line between what a government can and can’t do without a warrant,” Ellison said. “The government can’t come into your house, they can’t check your email, they can’t open your letters, and in this case, they can’t chalk the tire of your vehicle to track where you have or haven’t been.”

This issue is playing out in other states and there is a similar case in Bay City in which Ellison is also participating.

He said the decision here will send a clear signal elsewhere.

“Practically speaking of course, it sends a very loud announcement to other communities that also use chalk as a basis for parking enforcement, but it does not tie the hands of the entire country,” Ellison said.

Judge Thomas Ludington ordered Saginaw to pay nominal damages of $1 for each marking.

Each side has 30-days to appeal the ruling.

The city of Saginaw stopped chalking tires in 2019.