Tennessee 39-14-116. Hindering secured creditors


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

I am wondering what hindering a secured creditor in Tennessee means exactly. What qualifies as hindering a secured creditor?

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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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  • A
    Oct, 2020

    So I got a loan 5 years ago, and have been paying on it. I renewed it 9 months ago then became unable to work shortly after. I no longer have the items I got the loan with 5 years ago and we just used same collateral each time I renewed it. I was never ask if that changed.. Now I'm medically out of work and have proof of that and they want to sue me and give me a felony for a $805 loan that I owe $450 on, currently. Please help me I have never been in trouble before. I didn't get rid of the stuff on purpose the items broke over the years, and now they want them because I can't pay. So they said that's a class E felony.

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2020

      Audrey, I can't give legal advice, as I am not an attorney. Here is some information, shared with the understanding that it is not legal advice.

      Your conduct doesn't sound felonious to me. That would seem to apply to someone who knowingly and fraudulently avoided responsibility for the debt.  If a third-party debt collector raised the felony issue, I would advise you to speak with an attorney that specializes in cases of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA is a federal law that applies to third party collections but is not binding on the original collector. Perhaps such an attorney would be able to offer you good advice. This type of attorney doesn't charge a fee in advance, but takes a case if he or she feels it can collect from the debt collector.

      Functionally, you can't pay. I think they are threatening you to get you to pay and the felony issue is without teeth, but I don't know for sure. My feeling is based on common sense, which says that no reasonable person would view this as criminal. That doesn't mean it could not be, but you have a seemingly strong defense that the problem was due to your medical condition and not due to bad faith on your part. 

      Please report back on how this goes.

  • D
    Dec, 2019

    So I put a lien on my friends car and loaned him some money.  He hasnt paid me my money. He and his wife split up and she wont give me the vehicle. Can I legally have it repossessed?

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2019

      Repossession is not simply taking back a car, but is a specific remedy that needs to be specified in the loan agreement. Did you write up the loan with terms making it clear what action you could take if the loan were not paid as agreed? The terms of the agreement will rule what you can do.

      Separately, you could likely sue your friend, if that is a route you wish to take.

      Is your friend's wife listed on the title?

  • CW
    Bristol, TN,
    May, 2014
    Tennessee Car Title Loans in Johnson City, TN threatened to charge me with a Class E felony and have me arrested if I don't give them either the car or $1,000 today! I took out the car title loan several months ago, and made the first few payments on time. I hit a deer and did not have the money to have the car towed or fixed. I called them and told them where to go pick it up. They informed me that they do not go out and pick up cars that I would have to bring it to them, and it was towed somewhere the next day. Now today they tell me that it wasn't them that took the car and I need to either get it and bring it to them or give them the money immediately or I will be arrested. I offered to give them $100, which is all I have but that wasn't good enough. I kept in contact with them and tried to get them to tow the car. Can they still file charges against me?
    • BA
      May, 2014
      Reread the Tennessee statute above. This is a specific intent crime. Your local district attorney or prosecutor needs to have evidence you the consumer are trying to hinder the lender. If you can show you are cooperating in trying to locate the missing vehicle, it is unlikely you will be charged with this crime. That said, you would be wise to contact your local police, sheriff's department, or state police to find the tow yard where your problem is now parked.
  • JP
    Mountain City, TN,
    Apr, 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.
    • BA
      Apr, 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.
  • RR
    Knoxville, TN,
    Nov, 2012
    Is there a statue of limitation on repossessed vehicles that have not been found or turned in?
    • BA
      Nov, 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.