In recent weeks, local towing, booting and wrecker service practices have been the subject of several police reports and criminal investigations. The Murfreesboro Police Department recently sent a letter to over 200 businesses in an effort to ensure awareness of, and compliance with, existing Tennessee laws governing the removal of vehicles from private property.
Tennessee state law requires a written authorization for the towing or storage of any motor vehicle and is clear on who has the authority to have a vehicle removed from private property.
“A law enforcement officer with appropriate jurisdiction, or from the owner of the vehicle, or from the owner, or the authorized agent of the owner, of the private property from which the vehicle is to be towed,” TCA Section 55-16-112 states.
No other person has the authority to remove a vehicle from private property. In 2000, the Tennessee Attorney General was specifically asked whether a property manager or similarly situated person, or a lessee, could confer the authorization. His answer was no. The law was subsequently amended to add the reference to “the authorized agent of the owner.” This history indicates that an owner can designate a property manager to perform the tow authorization function but that the owner is limited to selecting one agent for this purpose, and that the person from whom the authorization is received (“the authorized agent”) cannot be the same as the person who is receiving the authorization (the “towing firm”). The statute is also clear that the owner (or the owner’s agent) must specifically authorize each tow.
These statutory requirements - for authorization by the owner or the owner’s agent on an individualized basis and the documentation necessary before towing – apply even if the vehicle is illegally parked.
“It is the goal of the Murfreesboro Police Department to ensure the law regarding towing vehicles is followed," Murfreesoro Police Chief Glenn Chrisman said. "We are forwarding this information to local companies so as to ensure every company engaged in this type of business is informed on the law and that deviance from the state law may result in criminal charges.”
For more information regarding towing, contact Sgt. Sam Campbell at 615-848-3260.