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Monday, April 29, 2019

6th Circuit Amends Opinion in "Chalking" Case

Last week we reported on a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion finding a city's practice of chalking vehicles for parking enforcement to be an unconstitutional search under the Fourth Amendment. Just two days after the decision was issued, the 6th Circuit published an amended opinion, which you can read in its entirety at Taylor v. Saginaw.  

Unfortunately, the amended opinion did not change the Court's ruling that the city's chalking practice was unconstitutional.  It does, however, add the following new paragraph to the opinion's conclusion:

Taking the allegations in Taylor’s complaint as true, we hold that chalking is a search under the Fourth Amendment, specifically under the Supreme Court’s decision in Jones. This does not mean, however, that chalking violates the Fourth Amendment. Rather, we hold, based on the pleading stage of this litigation, that two exceptions to the warrant requirement—the “community caretaking” exception and the motor-vehicle exception—do not apply here. Our holding extends no further than this. When the record in this case moves beyond the pleadings stage, the City is, of course, free to argue anew that one or both of those exceptions do apply, or that some other exception to the warrant requirement might apply.
It is quite unusual for a court to amend its opinion after it has been released except to correct typographical errors so this is significant. Given the widespread concern raised across the country about this ruling, the Court may have felt it was necessary to clarify that its ruling is limited to the facts presented in this case, and that the city could still make other arguments to justify its chalking practice on remand.

Thanks to a reader for reaching out about this amended opinion.


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