Chalking tires may be unlawful, alternatives considered
FAIRFIELD — You’ve seen the marks before. The bright, white chalk on the black tires signaling that your time in municipal parking is ticking.
That practice could be reconsidered after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals deemed it unconstitutional and in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
According to the three judges on the federal appeals court panel — which includes Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee in its jurisdiction — chalking tires is akin to a search and one that cannot be done without a warrant.
While the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals April 22 decision not have an immediate nor binding impact on Fairfield, — Connecticut is in the second circuit — Police Chief Chris Lyddy has the wheels turning.
“Our discussion at the town, county and state level began the moment this decision was rendered,” Lyddy said. “Timed parking limits has been important to commerce in both our downtown areas as well as the Southport Village.”
First Selectman Mike Tetreau has asked Lyddy to explore what other towns may be doing in case that change is necessary.
“This does seem like a big overreach on the courts to be involved in how a town manages hourly parking,” Tetreau said when asked about the federal court decision.
Westport is one of the towns that does not chalk tires.
“The handsets used by our traffic agents to print and issue tickets actually electronically record the position of the tires,” Lt. Jill Cabana of Westport police said.
Some towns continue to rely on chalking tires, a practice that dates back decades, and have combined it with new technology to keep track of cars in municipal lots.
The New Canaan Parking Authority, for example, uses chalk to mark tires in addition to a license plate reader software program that provides timestamps for every car.
“Chalking tires has been a practice for at least over 20 years,” Stacy Miltenberg, parking manager said. “We use (both of those methods) as of right now.”
If tire-chalking were to become unlawful in the state, Fairfield police would look at alternatives.