Glenwood continues tire chalking parking enforcement following controversial court ruling
The city of Glenwood Springs has no intention of discontinuing chalking tires to track how long a vehicle has remained parked in a particular spot.
On April 22, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the practice of chalking tires violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
“This was a surprising case for most people who look at Fourth Amendment law,” Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon said. “I’m not confident that it will be the direction that the cases continue to go.”
This specific case originated in Saginaw, Michigan after Alison Taylor sued the city as well as its parking enforcement officer Tabitha Hoskins after her tires were chalked on fifteen separate occasions between 2014 and 2017.
The ruling, which garnered national media attention, left many communities like Glenwood Springs wondering if they were now violating the Constitution by chalking tires.
Hanlon pointed out, however, that following the media spotlight on the case, a follow up order clarified that the issue the Sixth Circuit had looked at was narrow both factually and procedurally being that the case was on a motion to dismiss.
“The point in that is, it is a very limited decision that may give some indication as to where the law potentially could go but certainly I don’t think reflects the current state of the law across the country,” Hanlon said.
Additionally, Hanlon explained that the Sixth Circuit’s ruling does not set any new legal precedent for the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which Colorado falls under.
“Those circuits … quite frankly oftentimes decide cases differently,” Hanlon explained of the United States’ 13 appellate courts. “I have no idea how the [Tenth Circuit] would take a look at this issue. But, that is something that will get you to the Supreme Court level if there is dissension among the circuits on a particular question of law.”
According to Hanlon, the Tenth Circuit has never ruled one way or another on a tire chalking case.
The Tenth Circuit presides over Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma in addition to portions of Yellowstone National Park that extend into Montana and Idaho.
The Sixth Circuit, where the tire chalking case was heard, includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
The city relies on tire chalking to enforce time limits on vehicles, particularly those parked in the downtown area and has little to no other enforcement tools.
Since 1980, the city’s downtown area has had a general improvements district (GID); an overlay which allows development without requiring parking.
“If the city decides to do away with chalking they are going to have to have some alternative enforcement mechanism in place,” Hanlon said emphasizing the word “if.”
“The downtown businesses, in particular, rely heavily on people not parking forever in front of their businesses so that customers can keep coming in.”
Hanlon said he would provide further legal analysis to City Council Thursday and that the tire chalking conversation may resurface on a future Council agenda.
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