Digital Chalking: In a time of uncertainty, this new technology provides an answer

    Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit deemed physically chalking a vehicle’s tire to be in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The ruling states that chalking a vehicle that may, or may not, overstay a time-limited area on a public street is considered an unreasonable search, and would require a warrant.

    The Importance of Chalking

    Since its inception, chalking has played a key role in helping cities create a turnover for on-street parking spaces, freeing up open spots for local residents and visitors to participate in the local economy. According to Urban Planning expert Donald Shoup in The High Cost of Free Parking, “The cost of parking is hidden in higher prices for everything else. In addition to the monetary cost, which is enormous, free parking imposes many other hidden costs on cities, the economy, and the environment.” Cities implement chalking to ensure people can visit areas with some probability that a parking spot will be available. Without chalking, vehicles can potentially sit idle for hours on end, not allowing a constant flow of new individuals who may be supporting downtown businesses or may need to visit a government office, etc. This, in turn, could negatively impact the local economy if violators are not held responsible.

    While the court ruling only affects the states in the 6th Circuit (Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan), it has provided an atmosphere of uncertainty for those in the parking industry across the country. What will happen if the traditional method of physically chalking a tire is deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment nationwide? Rather than wait on repercussions, parking operations can use this as an opportunity to investigate alternative, high-tech methods like Digital Chalking that are not contemplated by the recent decision.

    What is Digital Chalking

    Digital Chalking through the use of License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology is a method that uses GPS latitude and longitude data to determine if a vehicle has overstayed its allotted time period. Once a potential violation is seen within the system, the user is alerted with two color comparison photos which show the initial time the vehicle was seen and the most recent detection where it was deemed in violation. This provides a second confirmation that the vehicle has violated the time-limited rule.

    Through a secure platform, this technology also provides parking operations with photo evidence of the vehicle in violation,to use as support if a citation is appealed. This also gives the parkers a more fair opportunity to appeal, because an inaccurately-written ticket will become evident upon review of the comparison photographs.  

    Utilizing technology to digitally chalk vehicles has the potential to reduce risk to parking enforcement officers in the field by placing them in a secured vehicle, allowing them to focus on driving and not hanging out of a vehicle focusing on chalking parked cars. It’s essential for all LPR technology providers to offer program administrators auditing capabilities, to ensure the technology isbeing used for approved purposes within the scope of the LPR policy that has been put in place.


    The recent ruling has caused many cities across the nation to question what other methods they can proceed with, while still maintaining proper parking enforcement in their communities. And even though there is a cloud of confusion among us, this ruling brings a call for new, innovative technology the parking industry can utilize to enforce parking and increase efficiency in cities while staying compliant and mindful of new rulings that can change how we do our job every day.