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The Fourth Amendment and Tire Chalking

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and…parking? Parking tickets are a common legal violation that many Americans have to contend with more than they’d wish. Thanks to a recent decision, it may soon become more difficult for the police to prosecute parking violations. A federal appeals court recently ruled that using chalk to mark the tires of a car in order to track how long it has been parked in one spot is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.   Objectives:

  • Students will examine previous Supreme Court cases on the Fourth Amendment and searches and seizures
  • Students will assess the arguments on each side of the tire chalking debate and form their own opinions on the issue


  Warm-up Activity (20 minutes) Directions: Have students read Handout A and answer the following questions.

  1. Why do cities chalk the tires of parked cars?
  2. What constitutional principles did the court rule tire chalking violates?

  Activity (30 minutes) Directions: Have students read Handout B and answer the comprehension and critical thinking questions below. Then, have students fill out Handout C. Lead a classroom discussion in which students defend why they chose the answers that they did.

  1. What is the purpose of the Fourth Amendment?
  2. In your own words, explain the Exclusionary Rule.
  3. Do you think chalking tires is unreasonable based on the reasonableness standard for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment? Do you think chalking a tire constitutes as a “search” for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment?