1. A police department that takes into custody an abandoned, immobile, or unattended motor vehicle, shall, within three (3) business days after taking such motor vehicle into custody, verify ownership of such motor vehicle pursuant to subsection (f). The police department shall, within three (3) business days after receiving verification of ownership, notify by registered mail, return receipt requested, the last known registered owner of the motor vehicle and all lien holders of record that the vehicle has been taken into custody. The notice shall describe the year, make, model and serial number of the abandoned, immobile, or unattended motor vehicle; set forth the location of the facility where the motor vehicle is being held; inform the owner and any lienholders of their right to reclaim the motor vehicle within ten (10) days after the date of the notice, upon payment of all towing, preservation and storage charges resulting from placing the vehicle in custody; and state that the failure of the owner or lienholders to exercise their right to reclaim the vehicle within the time provided shall be deemed a waiver by the owner and all lienholders of all right, title and interest in the vehicle and consent to the sale of the abandoned, immobile, or unattended motor vehicle at a public auction.
  2. A police department is not required to comply with the requirements of subsection (a) if it provides preseizure notice to the owner of the motor vehicle and all lienholders of record that the vehicle has been found to be abandoned, immobile, or unattended. Any preseizure notice shall be sent by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known address of the owner of record and to all lienholders of record. The notice shall be written in plain language and shall contain the year, make, model and vehicle identification number of the motor vehicle, if ascertainable, the location of the motor vehicle, and a statement advising the owner that the owner has ten (10) days to appeal the determination by the police department that the vehicle is abandoned, immobile, or unattended or to remove the vehicle from the property, or the police department shall take the abandoned, immobile, or unattended vehicle into custody. The notice shall further inform the owner and any lienholders of their right to reclaim the motor vehicle after it is taken into custody but before it is sold or demolished, upon payment of all towing, preservation, storage or any other charges resulting from placing the vehicle in custody, and state that the failure of the owner or lienholders to exercise their right to reclaim the vehicle shall be deemed a waiver by the owner and all lienholders of all right, title and interest in the vehicle and consent to the demolition of the vehicle or its sale at a public auction. If the owner or lienholder cannot be located through the exercise of due diligence, notice by publication shall be given as set out in subsection (c). If the owner or lienholder of an abandoned, immobile, or unattended motor vehicle fails to appeal the determination that the vehicle is abandoned, immobile, or unattended or fails to remove the motor vehicle within the time allowed for an appeal, the police department may take the vehicle into custody. If an appeal is made, the motor vehicle shall not be taken into custody while the appeal is pending. Failure to appeal within the specific time period shall, without exception, constitute waiver of the right of appeal.
  3. Attorney's Note

    Under the Tennessee Code, punishments for crimes depend on the classification. In the case of this section:
    ClassPrisonFine
    class A misdemeanorup to 11 monthsup to $2,500
    For details, see Tenn. Code § 40-35-111

    Terms Used In Tennessee Code 55-16-105

    • Appeal: A request made after a trial, asking another court (usually the court of appeals) to decide whether the trial was conducted properly. To make such a request is "to appeal" or "to take an appeal." One who appeals is called the appellant.
    • Contract: A legal written agreement that becomes binding when signed.
    • Department: means the department of revenue. See Tennessee Code 55-1-111
    • Jurisdiction: (1) The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case. Concurrent jurisdiction exists when two courts have simultaneous responsibility for the same case. (2) The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases.
    • Lien: A claim against real or personal property in satisfaction of a debt.
    • Motor vehicle: means every vehicle, including a low speed vehicle or a medium speed vehicle that is self-propelled, excluding electric scooters, electric bicycles as defined in §. See Tennessee Code 55-8-101
    • Owner: means a person who holds the legal title of a vehicle, or in the event a vehicle is the subject of an agreement for the conditional sale or lease thereof, with the right of purchase upon performance of the conditions stated in the agreement and with an immediate right of possession vested in the conditional vendee or lessee, or in the event a mortgagor of a vehicle is entitled to possession, then the conditional vendee or lessee or mortgagor shall be deemed the owner for the purpose of this chapter and chapter 10, parts 1-5 of this title. See Tennessee Code 55-8-101
    • Person: means a natural person, firm, copartnership, association, corporation, or an engaged ADS. See Tennessee Code 55-8-101
    • Property: includes both personal and real property. See Tennessee Code 1-3-105
    • Record: means information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in a perceivable form. See Tennessee Code 1-3-105
    • State: when applied to the different parts of the United States, includes the District of Columbia and the several territories of the United States. See Tennessee Code 1-3-105
    • Vehicle: means every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks. See Tennessee Code 55-8-101
    • written: includes printing, typewriting, engraving, lithography, and any other mode of representing words and letters. See Tennessee Code 1-3-105
    • Year: means a calendar year, unless otherwise expressed. See Tennessee Code 1-3-105

  4. In the event there is no response to the notice by registered mail provided for in subsection (a), then there shall be notice by one (1) publication in one (1) newspaper of general circulation in the area where the motor vehicle was abandoned, immobile, or unattended. The notice shall be in a small display ad format, but one (1) advertisement may contain multiple listings of abandoned, immobile, or unattended vehicles.
  5. The consequences and effect of failure to reclaim an abandoned, immobile, or unattended motor vehicle shall be as set forth in a valid notice given pursuant to this section.
  6. If the owner of the vehicle is not present, then within fifteen (15) minutes of any person, firm, or entity towing any vehicle pursuant to this chapter, such person, firm, or entity shall notify local law enforcement of the vehicle identification number (VIN), registration information, license plate number and description of the vehicle. A violation of this requirement by any person, firm or entity is a Class A misdemeanor. Local law enforcement shall keep a record of all such information which shall be available for public inspection.
  7. When an employee of a public agency or a towing company contracting with a public agency takes possession of a vehicle found abandoned, immobile, or unattended, an employee of the agency shall verify ownership through the Tennessee Information Enforcement System (TIES) and shall place the ownership information on the towing sheet or form. The agency shall also provide the ownership information to any towing company or garagekeeper with whom the agency has a contract. If a public agency attempts to verify ownership information through TIES and the response is “Not on File,” the agency shall contact the department of revenue title and registration division which shall search records not contained in TIES for the ownership information. If the title and registration division locates ownership information through this search, it shall notify the appropriate public agency and the agency shall distribute the information as provided in this subsection (f). When any other person takes possession of a vehicle found abandoned, immobile, or unattended, the action shall be reported immediately to the taxpayer and vehicle services division for verification of ownership on a form prescribed and provided by the registrar of motor vehicles.
    1. In addition to the notification requirements of subsection (a), any garagekeeper or towing firm, which has in its possession an abandoned, immobile or unattended motor vehicle taken into custody by a police department, and in whose possession the vehicle was lawfully placed by the police department, shall, within three (3) business days after such motor vehicle is taken into its possession, verify ownership of such motor vehicle pursuant to subsection (f). The garagekeeper or towing firm shall, within three (3) business days after receiving verification of ownership, provide notice to the last known registered owner of the motor vehicle and all lienholders of record. All notification requirements included in subsection (a) shall apply to the notice required to be provided by a garagekeeper or towing firm pursuant to this section.
    2. A garagekeeper or towing firm that does not verify ownership of a motor vehicle within three (3) business days after taking possession of such motor vehicle pursuant to this section or that does not notify by mail the owner of such motor vehicle within three (3) business days after receiving verification of ownership from the appropriate state department or agency shall not be entitled to receive more than six (6) days of storage-related expenses. A garagekeeper or towing firm that is found by a court of competent jurisdiction to have failed upon presentment of payment for towing and storage expenses to release a motor vehicle shall be subject to civil liability to a vehicle owner, secured creditor, lessor or lienholder who prevails in an action brought under this section for reasonable costs and attorney’s fees incurred by the person instituting the action.
    3. If the owner of the vehicle or the owner’s agent is present at the time that the vehicle is placed into the custody of a garagekeeper or towing firm, then this subsection (g) shall not apply to the garagekeeper or towing firm; provided, however, that this subdivision (g)(3) does not exempt the garagekeeper or towing firm from any other notification requirements under this section or other provision of law.