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Law School Case Brief

Taylor v. City of Saginaw - 922 F.3d 328 (6th Cir. 2019)


To determine whether a Fourth Amendment violation has occurred, the court asks two primary questions: first, whether the alleged government conduct constitutes a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment; and second, whether the search was reasonable.


The City of Saginaw (Saginaw) was using a common parking enforcement practice known as "chalking," whereby Saginaw parking enforcement officers use chalk to mark the tires of parked vehicles to track how long they have been parked.  Parking enforcement officers return to the car after the posted time for parking has passed, and if the chalk marks are still there — a sign that the vehicle has not moved — the officer issues a citation. Alison Taylor, a frequent recipient of parking tickets, sued Saginaw and its parking enforcement officer Tabitha Hoskins, alleging that chalking violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search. On Saginaw's motion, the district court dismissed the action, finding that, while chalking may have constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment, the search was reasonable.


Did the district court err in dismissing the action against defendants City and parking officer?




The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's action against the defendants. According to the Court, chalking was a search under the Fourth Amendment, specifically under the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400, 132 S. Ct. 945, 181 L. Ed. 2d 911 (2012). This does not mean, however, that chalking violates the Fourth Amendment. Rather, the Court held that based on the pleading stage of the litigation, that two exceptions to the warrant requirement — the "community caretaking" exception and the motor-vehicle exception — do not apply in the present case. The Court’s holding extends no further than this. According to the Court, when the record in this case moves beyond the pleadings stage, the City of Saginaw is free to argue anew that one or both of those exceptions do apply, or that some other exception to the warrant requirement might apply.

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