Chalking Tires

How is making a mark on tires and then looking for it later a “search”?

A link or a little background info would have been helpful. Most here won’t know why you’re asking. I included one below.

Since you’re asking in GQ, this is the answer to your question:

They’re intentionally altering/defacing somebody’s personal property without that person’s knowledge or consent (presumably), in order to gather evidence for prosecution.

There are a variety of reasons police can mark or identify cars without permission (parking citation, abandoned vehicle, etc.), but those are generally plainly visible, and intended to communicate with the owner, possibly even warning them before enforcement action is taken. For example if a vehicle is marked as possibly abandoned you have a chance to claim ownership and explain the situation before it gets towed away and you’re stuck with punitive fines.

Where I live, in a larger Canadian city, the parking enforcement officers used to place a chalk mark on the tires of cars parked in limited time areas. When they came back after the allowed time (say 1 hour) it was then easy for them to see which cars had exceeded the time limit and could be ticketed. Haven’t noticed this in awhile, someone mentioned to me that they now had infrared scanners to detect temperature differences between the bottom of the tire in contact with the road and the rest of the tire, but I don’t know if it’s true.

The last few times I’ve seen parking enforcement using chalk was to put a chalk mark on the road. I’ve seen this in Seoul, Busan, Beijing, and Honolulu. It’s been a long while since I’ve lived in the US so I have no idea when that started up. Anyone know?

If you read the linked article that x-ray vision shared, you’ll see that “chalking tires” has apparently been found to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Thus, it sounds like, at least in the U.S., parking enforcement is now using methods which don’t require marking an individual’s property.

Here in Taiwan they just take pictures of the car.

In the UK also. A timed photo when they first see it and a later one if it is there beyond the permitted time.

So, they put chalk on the tyres as they walk past, and then walk back later and cars with chalk on their tyres are given tickets? I don’t see that could be any sort of proof, it’s not like it would be illegal to put chalk on my own car tyres (maybe I like chalk), or drive from one parking area to another with pre-chalked tyres.

As bob++ above notes, in the UK they take timed photos on their phones these days, but in pre-phone days they’d just take a note of your registration and time.

The photo system doesn’t work for every restriction. My city allows parking on residential streets for up to 72 hours, and it resets every time the car moves. The chalk on the tires is to tell whether the wheels have moved in those 72 hours. Though they could probably mark the asphalt instead and it would be just as unlikely for the car to be exactly in line if it had moved.

^ Chalk marks are made exactly at the 6 o’clock position on both tires facing the street. It’s unlikely one would drive away, park, and have both chalk marks in the exact position. “Judge, I happen to enjoy putting chalk marks at the 6 o’clock position on my own tires when I park and completely washing off all of the old chalk marks” isn’t likely to be a believable defense.

It’s the sort of thing that you could do to specifically fight against that kind of tactic. Mark your own tyres with chalk whenever you park, and provide independent proof of when you parked*, and then if you get a ticket despite being there legally, you could fight it and make all tickets given that way unsafe.

Also, there is presumably nothing to stop you from washing the chalk off your tyres if you see it there.
*To be fair, I’ve got no idea how you’d do this.

“Judge, I parked my car well after Officer Friendly started marking tires and I have proof. The chalk marks are my own. My goal is to thwart this type of law enforcement.”

Something tells me this won’t go over well either.

If you’re going to bother with all that, why not just pay your meter or move your car?

When I saw chalking the tires it was both done in the tire and the road so there are matching lines at that 6 o’clock position.

As for the case, it was unreasonable to mark someone’s personal property by doing so one is assuming guilt of someone who is not under any investigation which seemed to be a issue.

See the first sentence in the part you quoted.

I just thought of a related issue: not marking someone’s property, but marking their body.
I’m talking about getting your hand stamped with ink. (when you go to a music festival, for example.)
This is done all the time, and nobody complains.
What’s the difference?

Yes, I know it’s consensual, and you are aware of it as it happens.It might even be printed on the back of the admission ticket,that purchase of the ticket is a statement of willingness to be marked.

So would it be legal for to do the same thing for cars?
Put up a sign— like the user-agreements on our smartphone apps, on which we all happily click “agree” before using.
Could there be a statement on the parking sign that says “one-hour parking–use of this parking lane constitutes agreement to have your tires chalked”.?
Any lawyers here want to take my suggestion to the Supreme Court? :slight_smile:

That, and it’s not done by agents of the state. Also, many events such as festival don’t require one to get his hand stamped, one just can’t leave and re-enter without it.

Fourth amendment violations don’t cease to be violations by the putting up of a sign.

I once worked downtown, where a co-worker parked at a metered spot on the street and would go out periodically to wipe off the chalk mark and feed the meter. Parking was supposed to be limited to two hours but she did this so she could leave her car in the same spot all day without getting a ticket.

Nowadays, the parking enforcement people could take time-stamped pictures of cars and use license plate recognition software to keep track of how long cars have been parked.

Presumably the people who put up the sign are private individuals. They could put up a sign that the use of their lot involved tire paint. Most lots around Denver are private anyway. The city couldn’t sign all the roads into town though.