Chalking tires: legal or not?

wwny Chalking tires: legal or not?

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - This week the crackdown on parking in Watertown's Public Square has been in the news and some have questioned if it's legal for the parking police to chalk tires.

Tire chalking is something Watertown officials say has been going on in the city for years. The mark lets a parking enforcement officer keep track of how long a car has been in a space.

"It's a simple way to do it. It's extremely inexpensive and it works," said City Manager Rick Finn.

But with more aggressive parking enforcement in Public Square, some shop owners questioned city council this week on whether tire marking is legal.

"Marking tires is a form of trespassing," said Kristina Pafford, owner of Bare Knuckle Tattoo, a downtown business.

Here's why: earlier this year a Michigan woman won an appeal case in federal court where the lawyer argued tire chalking violates the Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

"They reversed and held that it was plausible that a Fourth Amendment violation has occurred when parking officials chalk tires. We think the decision is right," said

Philip Ellison, the attorney who won the case.

The federal court which made the ruling has jurisdiction over several states, but New York is not one of them.

"The city attorney has advised us that in doing his due diligence and his research, it does not affect our state and therefore it has no impact," said Finn.

Parking enforcement is run through the city police department.

"Until the matter is ruled unlawful here, we are going to proceed as it's lawful," said Detective Lieutenant Joe Donoghue of the police department.

But Ellison says the case could influence other courts, maybe even ones in New York.

"The second circuit, which includes New York, could look to the Taylor decision and say, yup, we are going to adopt that as our own," he said.

If tire chalking were to become illegal in New York state, Finn says the city has looked into other options of parking enforcement like taking pictures.

But for now the city of Watertown will stick to the old school way of enforcing parking.

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