Tennessee 39-14-116. Hindering secured creditors

What does hindering secured creditors mean in Tennessee, and what are the penalties for doing so?

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Bill's Answer: Answered by Mark Cappel

Tennessee is unique in that it criminalizes what is most often a civil matter in other states. Under Tennessee 39-14-116 it is a class E felony to commit any act that hinders the creditor’s ability to enforce its security interest in the property you possess. You may not destroy, remove, or otherwise harm the value of any of your property with the intent to hinder enforcement of a security interest held by another on that property. Conviction of a class E felony in Tennessee could result in a prison term of one to six years, and fines up to $3,000.

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Tennessee 39-14-116. Hindering secured creditors

The following is Tennessee 39-14-116:

(a) A person who claims ownership of or interest in any property which is the subject of a security interest, security agreement, deed of trust, mortgage, attachment, judgment or other statutory or equitable lien commits an offense who, with intent to hinder enforcement of that interest or lien, destroys, removes, conceals, encumbers, transfers, or otherwise harms or reduces the value of the property.

(b) For purposes of this section, unless the context otherwise requires:

   (1) “Remove” means transport, without the effective consent of the secured party, from the state or county in which the property was located when the security interest or lien attached; and

   (2) “Security interest” means an interest in personal property or fixtures that secures payment or performance of an obligation.

(c) An offense under this section is a Class E felony.


Consult with a Tennessee attorney who has experience in criminal law. He or she will review the facts in your situation and advise you precisely regarding your rights and liabilities. See also the Bills.com article Tennessee Collection Laws to learn more about your rights and liabilities as a Tennessee resident.

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Comments (16)

James P.
Mountain City, TN  |  April 08, 2014
Received warrant for hindering secured creditor in 2009.. Also secured property was repossessed by lien holder same day and has been sold. I live in a different state than that of the lien holder. Can lien holder sell property or the (evidence) and still leave the hindering secured creditor warrant open for prosecution? They received their property and it was sold for enough money to cover the debt. It has been 5 years now.
April 08, 2014
You need more help than someone can share in a Web posting or e-mail message. Consult with a lawyer in your state of residence who has criminal law experience immediately. Bring all of your documents regarding the repo and the warrant to your meeting. Your lawyer will advise you in how to respond to the warrant.
Russell R.
Knoxville, TN  |  November 14, 2012
Is there a statue of limitation on repossessed vehicles that have not been found or turned in?
November 19, 2012
I am unaware of any statute of limitations for a lien on a vehicle's title. Therefore, there is no time limit I can find for a creditor to start a repossession.

Repossession laws vary from state to state. The best answer to your question is to consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience. He or she will ask questions about your circumstances, and will research your state's statutes and case law to give you a useful answer.
Hailey S.
Gray, TN  |  June 08, 2012
A friend traded in her car at a buy-here pay-here lot, and paid a $300 down and made several payments. She found the passenger side floorboard had a big hole in it plus the car was having electrical problems. She took the car back to the lot and they said there was nothing they could do about it, so she simply stopped making payments as she told them she would. She still owes money on it but doesn't have the car any more and they are trying to repossess it. What can they do legally?
June 12, 2012
Did the dealer make any representations about the condition of the car to your friend? Did your friend have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle before purchase? Where is the vehicle now?

To minimize the amount of expenses your friend will need to pay, she should bring the vehicle to the lienholder, which is probably the buy-here pay-here dealer. Tell her to do so immediately. Then your friend will need to resolve the deficiency balance issue.

You ask your question on a page that concerns Tennessee vehicle repossession law. If your friend is a Tennessee resident, then she is subject to criminal prosecution if she hinders the lienholder from repossessing the vehicle. That is why her safest course of action is to return the vehicle at once, and then resolve the financial consequences later.
Kristy W.
Benton, TN  |  February 11, 2013
I suggest she return the car a soon as possible. The creditor can easily have her arrested for hindering. My husand was, and it cost $587.00 to get him out. NOT FUN!
Max N.
Jackson, TN  |  May 23, 2012
Has there been a ruling when a secured creditor has refused collateral stating all they want is their money, demanding PAYMENT IN FULL ONLY, for months refusing to accept payments and months later files as a secured creditor. It's like the creditor would loose their rights as a secured creditor when they have refused the collateral. What do you think?
May 23, 2012
You raise an interesting estoppel theory. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has experience in consumer law to learn if you have any case law precedent on your side.
Brittany S.
Newport, TN  |  June 26, 2011
My husband was put in jail the other day for hindering a secured creditor. when the story is his mom and stepdad told him they were giving him this piece of crap car, that i personally wouldnt give a quarter for. so his dad is the lein holder on the title and he never noticed and has never seen the title so how can he go to jail if we never owed any money whatsoever?
June 26, 2011
The facts in your question are unclear to me. The defendant should consult with a lawyer in his or her state who has criminal law experience to learn more about his or her rights and liabilities, and what steps to take next.
Timothy G.
November 04, 2010
I have one whom sold the truck and another whom left the state and will not give an address for us to repo and refuses to pay, keeping our truck. The D.A's office and Sheriff's said no criminal act because she made a down payment. The one that sold the truck, well they said the same thing "since he made some payments then there is no crime. I say bull pucky to the both because the Law 39-14-166 TCA, plainly read that it is a class E. Felony. But here in Unicoi county/Erwin Tennessee. I have no idea rather then to pay their fee for civil cases. They'll never find-em. I am still attempting to get this prosecuted because I can read what the law says. Plus reviewing some supreme Court data on-line If you could tell me what or how to convince the DA to pursue the matter would be greatly appreciated.
November 05, 2010
I think you are asking me to write a pleading to a Tennessee court that asks the court to order your district attorney to bring charges under 39-14-166 against someone who stopped making payments on a vehicle loan. My window into the facts of your case is very small, but based on what you shared here I agree with DA's conclusion. Your best course of action is to consult with a Tennessee lawyer who has experience in civil litigation. Ask him or her for an analysis of 39-14-166 and the DA's opinion. Then ask him or her to analyze your rights under Tennessee civil law and how to repossess the vehicle.
Jonathan M.
Huntsville, TN  |  January 12, 2011
i purchased a vehicle from a mom and pop car lot and after having the vehicle for a few weeks the electric steering went out on the vehicle. well i fought with the dealer and they fixed it for free. well i was making plans to move out of state and while i was up in indiana my vehicle stalled on the side of the interstate and paid a 2300 dollar tow bill to have it taken back to the lot of the dealer... well the dealer had the vehicle for several weeks and said they dont know what was wrong with the vehicle but they said they could take it to toyota of somerset ky, i agreed and fount of from the toyota dealer that the transmission was blown. the vehicle is a 2006...i called the bank where i financed it and told them to repo the vehicle and they never did. the vehicle set at the toyota lot for over a year. apparently the bank didnt get my msg and didnt get my letter stating i default on my payments and where the vehicle was located at. i was charged with hindering a sec. creditor and my choice is to pay 18000 dollars in fines and restitution to the bank or do prison time.....how crazy
January 12, 2011
I strongly urge you to consult with an experienced attorney, if you have not already done so. If you can't afford an attorney, call the local bar association in your area and ask for the name of the local organizations that provides free or low-cost services to low- and no-income people in your area. Make an appointment with that organization and bring all of the documents you have to your meeting. An attorney will advise you accordingly.
Timothy G.
Erwin, TN  |  February 20, 2011
I agree with Bill. You need to seek advise from a Lawyer... Also remember the TN board of professional responsibility. I am now approaching the DA with Hindering Process.
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