Tennessee tow rules, eavesdropping protections kick in July 1

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/25/2014

New laws in effect in Tennessee the first of the month cover towing, license plate readers and warrantless searches.

Starting Tuesday, July 1, one new law 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.

The new law adds a penalty to state law. Specifically, 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 is needed to get the attention of lawbreakers.

She previously told lawmakers 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 said. “That’s why we put the original rule in place. This (change) puts some teeth into the law because tow operators have been ignoring it.”

Another new law taking effect requires law enforcement to obtain search warrants for cellphone data.

Police will be prohibited from gaining remote access of electronic communication or user data without a warrant. A specific search warrant will be required for circumstances that include “imminent danger” to the life of the owner or to the public.

One more change limits how long data from license plate readers can be kept.

Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said there are about 40 cameras throughout the state posted along highways that capture the date, time and location of passing vehicles.

Until now, the data could be kept for however long law enforcement wishes.

The new law permits local police departments and the Department of Public Safety to keep data for 90 days. The time limit will not apply to records related to crimes.

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