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Taylor v. City of Saginaw

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

April 25, 2019

Alison Patricia Taylor, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
City of Saginaw; Tabitha Hoskins, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: October 2, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Bay City. No. 1:17-cv-11067-Thomas L. Ludington, District Judge.

          Philip L. Ellison, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL PLC, Hemlock, Michigan, for Appellant. Brett Meyer, O'NEILL, WALLACE & DOYLE, P.C., Saginaw, Michigan, for Appellees.

          Philip L. Ellison, OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL PLC, Hemlock, Michigan, for Appellant. Brett Meyer, O'NEILL, WALLACE & DOYLE, P.C., Saginaw, Michigan, for Appellees.

          Before: KEITH, KETHLEDGE, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.

          AMENDED OPINION

          BERNICE BOUIE DONALD, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         The City of Saginaw (the "City") uses a common parking enforcement practice known as "chalking," whereby City 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 the City and its parking enforcement officer Tabitha Hoskins, alleging that chalking violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search. The City moved to dismiss the action. The district court granted the City's motion, finding that, while chalking may have constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment, the search was reasonable. Because we chalk this practice up to a regulatory exercise, rather than a community-caretaking function, we REVERSE.

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         Between 2014 and 2017, Tabitha Hoskins chalked Taylor's tires on fifteen separate occasions and issued her citations in kind. Each citation included the date and time the chalk was placed on her vehicle's tires. The cost of a citation starts at $15 and increases from there.

         On April 5, 2017, Taylor filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the City, alleging defendants violated her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches by placing chalk marks on her tires without her consent or a valid search warrant. Taylor also sued Hoskins in her individual capacity. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), asserting that chalking was not a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, or alternatively, if it was a search, it was reasonable under the community caretaker exception.[1]Hoskins also asserted a qualified immunity defense.

         The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, finding that the City engaged in a search as defined by the Fourth Amendment by placing chalk marks on Taylor's tires to gather evidence of a parking violation. The district court, however, agreed with the defendants that the search was reasonable because: (1) there is a lesser expectation of privacy in automobiles; and (2) the search was subject to the community caretaker exception to the warrant requirement.[2] Taylor timely appeals.

         II.

         ANALYSIS

         A. ...


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