Officials: Town Attorney Investigating Whether New Canaan Should Change Tire-Chalking Practice 

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The town attorney is reviewing the practice of enforcement officers in New Canaan—ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in the midwest—of chalking the tires of vehicles by way of tracking how long they’re parked in the same place, officials said.

Though decision made by the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit—a jurisdiction that covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee—is “weak,” Parking Commission Chairman Keith Richey said at the appointed body’s most recent meeting, “but that was their decision.”

“It’s on the basis of the chalk-marking being a search,” Richey said during the May 2 meeting, held at Town Hall. “And as a lawyer who has studied Constitutional law, i cannot understand how chalk-marking is a search, considering that you have available today photographs, you have license plate readers. Those are not searches, but chalking would be a search.”

He added, “I can tell you that the town lawyer is looking at it, and that until he comes up with decision, we are not following it.”

The three-judge panel’s decision involved the case of a Saginaw, Mich. woman who had been cited by the same enforcement officer 15 times within just a few years, according to a NPR report. The court ruled that chalking violated Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures” after the ticketed woman’s lawyers said authorities should obtain a warrant in order to chalk a tire.

In New Canaan, parking enforcement officers use a combination of license plate reader data and chalking to determine whether vehicles remain over time in non-metered spaces. 

Commissioner Peter Ogivie said at the meeting that New Canaan could get rid of chalking and instead put parking meters on Elm and Main Streets—a recommendation that received support by a 3-2 vote within the Commission but then was rejected last month by New Canaan’s local traffic authority.

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