Taylor v. City of Saginaw
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the use of chalk to mark tires by parking enforcement officials for the City of Saginaw constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment and that using such chalk to mark tires without a warrant constituted an unreasonable search. Taylor repeatedly had her tires "chalked" by a city parking enforcement officer and, as a result, received numerous parking tickets. Taylor, subsequently, filed a § 1983 action against the city alleging a violation of her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches. The city argued that chalking the tires was not a Fourth Amendment violation because it was not a search and, even if it was a search, it was a reasonable search under the community caretaker exception.
The district court granted the city's motion to dismiss and found that the chalking was a search under the Fourth Amendment but that the search was reasonable because there was a lessened expectation to privacy in cars and the search was subject to the community caretaker exception to the warrant requirement for searches. On appeal by Taylor, the Sixth Ciruit reversed the district court and held that the chalking was a search beacuse even the slight physical intrusion of chalking on the vehicle was a common-law trespass and that there was an attempt to find something or to obtain information in the process of the chalking. The appellate court diverged from the district court on its analysis of reasonableness. The court held that the reduced expectation of privacy in cars existed if there was probable cause to believe that the vehicle contained evidence of a crime. The court held that no such probable cause existed in the process of chalking and that such process was merely to keep track of vehicles. The court also rejected the community caretaker exception because the city did not prove a relation to public safety and the need of the city to maintain orderly parking did not visciate the requirement to follow the Constitution.