On some occasions, decisions that affect important rights grown from the most trivial matters. For instance, the United States Court of Appeals recently extended the 4th Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures to situations where parking enforcement officers use chalk to mark the tires of vehicles to determine whether they have exceeded the time limit for parking in a particular location.
The 4th Amendment:
The 4th Amendment is designed to safeguard the privacy and security of people against arbitrary invasions by the police. It specifically states that "people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures." 4th Amendment violations occur when police conduct constitutes a "search" and the search is found to be "unreasonable."
What is a Search?
A search which results in potential 4th Amendment protections occurs when police invade an area in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy such as their house, office, car or storage area. A search can also occur in situations where police physically intrude upon a constitutionally protected area in order to obtain information. Examples of such a physical intrusion may include situations where police place a GPS tracking device on a persons car or plant a listening device on a phone or within a residence.
Chalking tires was recently determined to be a search that is protected by the 4th Amendment. This is because the act of placing chalk on a vehicle's tires constitutes a trespass or physical intrusion on a constitutionally protected item, the car. Further, the reason behind the intrusion by police is to obtain information concerning a potential violation of parking laws.
The Reasonableness of Police Conduct
Once a search is determined to have occurred, it can only be in violation of the 4th Amendment if the police conduct is found to be unreasonable. The basic rule is that unless there is a specifically defines exception, searches conducted without a warrant are per se "unreasonable." An exception to the warrant requirement exists when police search an automobile when they have probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. However, with respect to chalking tires, police generally go on a fishing expedition and search vehicles that are legally parked. When police chalk tires of vehicles which are legally parked, there is no probable cause or even a scintilla of suspicion that they are violating the law. Consequently, the act of chalking tires by police is unreasonable.
Sometimes, police attempt to justify 4th Amendment violations by arguing that their actions are for the purpose of preventing an injury or an ongoing harm to the community. This is commonly referred to as the "community caretaker" exception to the warrant requirement. Of course, chalking tires does not fall within the community caretaker exception as the length of time a vehicle remains parked in a designated spot does not amount to a public safety issue or expose the public to any ongoing harm.
Often people are arrested, charged with a crime and prosecuted based on evidence police recover during a search of their homes, offices, vehicles, storage units, etc. With the advent of technology, police also employ tracking devices on vehicles, use wiretaps to monitor phone conversations and attempt to determine a suspects whereabouts by tracking their cell phone locations. Of course, all of these practices constitute searches under the 4th Amendment and must be closely examined to determine whether challenges to the admissibility of potentially important evidence can be made. For that reason, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney that can recognize these issues and present the most effective defense to criminal charges.
Call (480) 833-8613 for Immediate Help in Defending Criminal Charges
If you have been charged with a crime in Arizona, contact my office at (480) 833-8613 for a free and immediate consultation. I have represented thousands of individuals during the last twenty years who have been charged with offenses ranging from DUI and drug offenses to aggravated assault and homicide. I have also conducted a number of jury trials in the city, justice and superior courts throughout Maricopa and Pinal Counties and regularly appear in Maricopa County Superior Court as well as the justice courts and city courts in Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Glendale, Surprise and Chandler.