Tennessee adopts new rules on tows, checkpoints

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/13/2014

Two new laws in Tennessee put teeth into a towers rule and instruct law enforcement to steer clear of certain checkpoints.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed one bill that covers truckers and other drivers not present when their vehicle is towed.

Tennessee law already requires tow truck operators to notify local law enforcement before taking a vehicle when the owner of the vehicle is not present. However, there is no penalty for failure to notify police of the vehicle’s identification number, registration information, license plate number, and description before towing.

Previously SB1693, the new law adds a penalty to state law.

Starting July 1, towing violators would face as much as 12 months behind bars and/or up to $2,500 fines.

Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, said the punishment provision is needed to get the attention of law breakers.

She previously told members of the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee that if police are not notified that a vehicle has been towed and an owner discovers their vehicle is gone, they’re going to report it as stolen.

“It causes major confusion,” Massey testified. “That’s why we put the original rule in place. This bill puts some teeth into the law because tow operators have been ignoring it.”

Another new law covers police involvement in traffic checkpoints. Specifically, SB1485 prohibits state and local police from participating in traffic checkpoints done by federal contractors.

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said the new law will help protect drivers from NHTSA-sponsored checkpoints where they are pressured into providing cheek swabs and blood samples for random DNA tests.

Bell says the practice has been reported in more than 30 U.S. cities.

“There is no way a non-governmental checkpoint should be allowed in Tennessee or any other state,” Bell said in a recent news release. “They certainly should not be pulling over motorists and coercing them to submit to a test without cause. This is a gross abuse of power.”

Bell said prohibiting police involvement will make it nearly impossible to continue to effectively pull over vehicles to conduct the random dragnets.

The new rule took effect immediately.

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