Tennessee Tow Operator Charged With Auto Theft

A towing company owner has been arrested for auto theft after he refused to release an impounded vehicle to Knoxville (Tenn.) Police Department officers without payment of the towing fee. The situation arose on Thursday, January 6 after Billy Ogle, of Ogle’s Wrecker, in Knoxville, impounded a 2012 Hyundai Sonata at the request of a property owner. The car was blocking the driveway to a private residence. Once the Hyundai was at Ogle’s lot, Ogle notified the city police department in accordance with state and local law. An NCIC search revealed that the vehicle had been stolen before it was left abandoned at the tow site. Shortly thereafter, two police officers appeared at Ogle’s tow lot with a tow truck demanding that Ogle release the Hyundai so it could be transferred to the city pound. When Ogle refused to release the vehicle until he was paid his towing fee, things turned ugly. After an escalating confrontation between the officers and Ogle, Ogle was handcuffed and arrested for felony auto theft. If convicted, he is facing a sentence of 3 to 6 years in prison.

What is a Bailment?

When a tow company takes possession of a vehicle, a variety of legal obligations are impacted. One of these is the creation of a bailment. A bailment describes a legal relationship where physical possession of property is transferred from one person to another person. In the tow business, a bailment is established once a motor vehicle belonging to someone else comes into the possession of the tow company. The owner of the vehicle is “bailor” and the tow company is the “bailee.” But what do these fancy legal words mean?

By |2018-02-12T09:28:08-06:00February 12th, 2018|Other Legal Issues, Vehicle Impounding & Liens|0 Comments

An Introduction to Replevin

I had a client tell me an all too familiar story the other day. His tow company was in a dispute with a trucking company over the amount of the bill. While the dispute raged on, the tow company continued to hold the truck, trailer, and cargo. One day when push finally came to shove, the tow company received a letter from a fancy downtown law firm threatening to sue the tow company for replevin and other causes of action if the tow company did not release the truck, etc. while the dispute over the bill continued.

Is a Tow Gone Wrong Really Stealing?

For those of you that have attended a TowLawyer seminar, you might remember Michael McGovern’s notable way of teaching the possible risks of wrongfully perfecting tow liens. It goes something like this, Mr. McGovern approaches a tow operator sitting in the front row and, much to their surprise, temporarily takes one of their personal belongings like a hat, pen, notebook, etc. and informs the owner that he is not giving it back. The tow operator usually exclaims something like “you can’t do that!” Mr. McGovern then smiles and asks: “why not? What that’s called?” Most every tow company in the room says “stealing” or theft or the like and then McGovern (correctly) compares his action of stealing the hat, etc. to a tow company wrongfully holding or refusing to release a towed vehicle without a legal right.

Good Faith and Reasonable Efforts to Locate a Vehicle’s Owner

When claiming a possessory lien on unclaimed motor vehicles, most state statutes require the tow company to inquire with their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to determine the vehicle’s owners and lienholders. If the DMV’s records indicate “no record found,” most states allow a tow company to proceed with a lien sale if the tow company publishes an appropriate public notice and the subject vehicle is not retrieved in a certain number of days.

By |2017-02-10T19:23:41-06:00September 5th, 2016|Vehicle Impounding & Liens|0 Comments

Administrative Fees for Towing and Impoundment: Effective Deterrent or Money Grab?

Consumer complaints about the price of a tow bill are nothing new. Usually, it’s the tow company that is the target of the complaints. However, with the rise of administrative fees being charged by cities, some cities are also drawing the ire of the general public.

By |2017-02-10T19:24:36-06:00August 14th, 2016|Vehicle Impounding & Liens|0 Comments

Send the Letters: Towing Liens and Unclaimed Vehicles

If an impounded vehicle goes unclaimed, every state has a law requiring the impounding towing company to notify the last known registered vehicle owner and lienholder, if any, of the impound, the amount of outstanding charges, and the possibility that the vehicle will be sold if it remains unclaimed. These requirements must be met to perfect a lien, if one exists. The notice must be sent via certified mail within a specified number of days, typically five to seven days.

By |2017-02-10T19:27:30-06:00June 5th, 2016|Vehicle Impounding & Liens|0 Comments

Impounded Vehicles: Just the Fax, Ma’am

Releasing impounded vehicles can be a tricky affair. You need to be sure that the person or company to whom the impounded vehicle is being released has been duly authorized by the vehicle owner. Otherwise, you might find yourself at the wrong end of a lawsuit seeking money damages for improper release of an impounded vehicle.

By |2017-02-10T19:28:21-06:00May 22nd, 2016|Vehicle Impounding & Liens|0 Comments

Holding on for Dear Life: Do You Really have a Possessory Lien?

In the tow business, it is common for companies to refuse to release vehicles until the full bill for towing and storage has been paid. Although this is rarely discussed, the legal basis behind a company’s refusal to release a vehicle centers on whether or not the tow company has a possessory lien. Stated another way, generally, it is unlawful to retain someone’s property without some legal basis.

By |2017-04-07T12:52:55-05:00May 7th, 2016|Vehicle Impounding & Liens|0 Comments

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