Potty Police: Tennessee Sheriff Runs Plates Of Car For Restaurant To Charge For Use Of Bathroom

398099_402900449794167_1324443176_nIn Erin, Tennessee, The Flood Zone on Highway 149 is serious about its bathrooms. When Patricia Barnes used the bathroom and then left without buying anything, the owner ran outside and wrote down the license plate of her car. Later, she received a $5 charge for the use of the bathroom. Putting aside that that is a pretty high cost for the use of a bathroom, Barnes wondered how the restaurant could have tracked down her address. The answer appears to be Houston County Sheriff Darrell Allison, who ran the plate for the restaurant.


There is so much wrong with this story. First, I am not sure what legal basis the restaurant has to insist on a $5 fee. It is not clear if the restaurant states such a fee outside of the bathroom.

The bigger problem is the role of Sheriff Allison who gave the information to a private business to charge an individual. Allison insists that he ran the plates because it was a possible crime. Presumably, that is the crime of using a bathroom without buying food?

If that is true, however, Allison notably did not file a police report or file charges. He simply handed over the information to a private citizen.

Allison insists that this is not a big deal and that he did nothing wrong. That makes this even more worrisome that Allison has no concept of basic rules of privacy and professionalism in law enforcement. Police are not supposed to work as agents of private citizens or businesses. Allison used public authority and resources to assist a private business. Not only did he turn his department into a glorified collection agency but did so solely on the word of this owner.

I am not sure why anyone would want to go to The Flood Zone given the extreme measures used by the owners. If you are on Highway 149, you might want to go down the road to “Sweet P” or “Jap Smith BarBQ.” if you do not want your license plates recorded.

Now for the most wonderful twist on the story, the owner of The Flood Zone said that she will no longer charge for bathrooms.

In the end, it is Allison that has the most explaining to do. He gave a private citizen the name and address of a couple after using official resources to track them down.

Source: MSMV

Kudos: Michael Blott

52 thoughts on “Potty Police: Tennessee Sheriff Runs Plates Of Car For Restaurant To Charge For Use Of Bathroom

  1. “I would have to know you, one, and I would have to know that you’re not the type of person that would just come to me or any officer wanting information about somebody or something,” Allison said.

    So if you were a friend of the sheriff, you could have the information you want.

    That the restaurant would have the nerve to waste the time and effort to send such a letter to this woman, demanding $5 to pay for the toilet use, is certainly one to avoid. Hope that five bucks was worth earning your restaurant national embarassment. No soup business for you!

  2. Darren: Even with good intentions this type of police culture eventually leads to very costly Defamation Lawsuits, where the police are cozy with some citizens while making other citizens meet a higher standard (2nd Class Citizens). It can also be a federal felony under some instances under the Privacy Act.

  3. Another State to avoid…. It’s getting so freaky out there, they may have to redraw the maps, outlining states to stay out of. Yesterday, Viriginia, the former ”State for Lovers” passed a law to make it illegal for couples to cohabit, without being married. Sharia Law, anyone???? Or is this just plain old Christianity??? Same Sh*t, different name………..

  4. It’s even more complicated than that. After 9/11 many local and state law enforcement agencies were “deputized” by the federal government essentially acting as an arm of the federal government while simultaneously erasing the line between terrorism and traditional crimes. Today the vast majority of “terrorism” laws are being used for “non-terrorism” and “non-criminal” cases. Once the “fruit of the poisonous tree” (proper legal term) is tainted like that it destroys the original criminal evidence, so the exploitation destroys likely thousands of cases. It also opens up local police officers to future war crimes charges (acting as an arm of the federal government).
    ACLU lawyers will be having a field day!

  5. Theocracy coupled with a police state–what wonders we have yet to behold. -Justice Holmes

    Some doozies, to be sure. One of these days…

  6. As for the $5, she should just not pay. Make the restaurant pay to take her to small-claims if they really want to collect that badly.

  7. Wasn’t this a violation of privacy laws? How can any police agency hand out personal information from a state database without permission or a warrant? This Sheriff needs to be brought up on charges. I did not think it was legal to charge for a pubic bathroom if there was not a free one available in the same building. Maybe I am remembering that wrong.

  8. Quite Contrary

    Thanks for posting the Lee Baca “Sheriff of the Year” link. I posted it to the Corrections page last night…

  9. rafflaw, The privacy laws differ in every state. In Wi., anyone can go to the DMV and for a $6 fee and run a license plate. Wi. has a history of open govt. which should be a model for the nation, but unfortunately is not.

  10. As funny as the circumstances are, in probably the vast majority of police corruption cases this story would have never made it into the Press. This type of thing happens all of the time by all localities but the police usually don’t CONFRONT the citizen but merely carry out a form of vigilante justice instead (flatten their tires, scratch their paint, etc.) usually exceding $5 – so the toilet freeloader never knows who did it, never provides a deterrent to future offenses and it never ends up on Jonathan Turley’s website. The fact that this sheriff was this brazen speaks volumes about that locality.

  11. Just following Boehner’s lead. He wastes time and taxpayer money on fighting DOMA and the ACA instead of doing the people’s work.. This sheriff is ignoring what he should be doing to do something that was a waste of time and taxpayer money.

  12. Since when does any policing authority have any consciousness about taxpayer money? In their experience, they get all kinds of fancy “toys” for their “jobs” along with their guaranteed paycheck/pension for which they have no accountability, nor requirement to protect the population, not to mention all the freebies they can extort from the public. They now have an “us versus them” mentality towards the public they have sworn to serve? It’s an abomination.

  13. Nick and Lawrence:

    It does vary by state but at least in mine Department of Licensing records are considered private documents. In the past, vehicle license registration information was available to members of the public who paid a small fee. The legislature, possibly in the early 90’s or so I don’t remember for certain, passed a law that restricted access. The reason for this was as the family in this article feared, that stalkers and other undesirables were using this information for nefarious purposes.

    Here the ACCESS and DOL policy has been put in place where every license and registration query is tracked and audited. Each of these queries is subject to audit and it must be explained as to what the reason for this. It must have a legitimate LE or gov’t purpose. Individual officers, dispatchers, and others can be sanctioned if unauthorized queries are made. Training tapes are required continuing education for these persons.

  14. nick,
    If it was legal for the sheriff to pay a fee and obtain that information, that is how he should have done it. Does that information include social security numbers?
    Thanks Darren.

  15. Poop in a paper bag. Small shopping bag. Put some lighter fluid on top of the bag. Place bag on doorstep of Offender at approximately nine thirty p.m. while the Offender is in watching tv. Ring doorbell. Run to safe distance and watch. Offender comes to door, goes out on porch, stomps out flames and sends poop all over himself, the door, the poop stoop. If you cant poop the get the scoop and find some in a dog yard. Dont let your kids read this blog.

  16. That’s another reason 24/7 police tracking would be helpful. How did he fill out his time sheet? There was no crime reported, no statute or ordinance violated and no police report – but he had the unchecked capability to look up license plates and not pursue the “suspect” but hand it over to the supposed crime victim. Note: Many federal color of law offenses by police happen off-duty in their personal vehicles, they obtain the info at work and abuse it during their off hours.

  17. In the Name of the Law: What the Public Isn’t Being Told About Police Misconduct

    By Nick Grube and Patti Epler 02/25/2013

    Sanjeev Ranabhat, Special to Civil Beat

    Part 1 of a 5-part series

    http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2013/02/25/18393-in-the-name-of-the-law-what-the-public-isnt-being-told-about-police-misconduct/

    In the Name of the Law: UH Students vs. The Police
    By Nick Grube 02/26/2013

    Joe Rubin

    Part 2 of a 5-part series

    http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2013/02/26/18394-in-the-name-of-the-law-uh-students-vs-the-police/

    (We need this in every state.)

  18. @nick spinell

    In Wi., anyone can go to the DMV and for a $6 fee and run a license plate. Wi. has a history of open govt.

    That is not open government. Open government allows access to documents and proceeding that allow effective oversight of government.

    It is generally illegal for any state DMV to release personal information to the public without the consent of the person to whom the information applies. It is a federal law with some exceptions. I cannot find any that would apply in this case.

    California used to allow the public to pay a fee and get a copy of the DMV record if you swore on your application that it was for legitimate purposes. Unfortunately, legitimate purposes usually meant not for an illegal activity. This did not stop an obsessed fan who not only got the information but used a private investigator to do it. In 1989, Rebecca Shaeffer, a young actress, was killed by this fan at her home. California changed the law the following year. Information can only be shared with law enforcement, other state government agencies, courts with jurisdiction, the insurance company of the person to verify a record it submitted to the DMV, or a person or organization involved in an accident (with the person of record) and this accident was reported to the police and DMV.

  19. I am sure he was friends with the police, nobody would have run plates otherwise. I hope the $5 was worth it because you just caused your buisiness to GO UNDER ! I wonder what or who made you so angry that you had to bully a lady going to the bathroom ? Anybody in their rght mind would have laughed at the letter and ignored you. But now that you have made the news , well………..

  20. @Nick…if that is true about WI then that is scary. That makes it pretty easy for total psychos to get information they shouldn’t have. I really have a hard time believing, especially with all the new stalker laws, that this is legal. There are so many things wrong with this if its true. A creepo could see a woman driving, get her license plate # and then for $6, go find her. WRONG!

  21. Randy Edwards, in another article your wife (or whatever she is to you) was quoted as complaining about privacy. Yet she got this in the news. Now everyone who wants to know can find where you live. That wasn’t smart.

    I personally don’t feel that every bathroom in every business was put there for my use. I always buy something.

  22. EastBroadwayLongBeach : VA did NOT pass a law prohibiting cohabitation They “voted to remove the law”. It had been on the books for a long time. They finally changed it, and it was removed.

  23. Also, everyone should be calling the sheriffs dept and calling for the firing of this person. He absolutely misused/abused his position. TN does NOT have a public database. You HAVE to be an officer of the law to obtain the information. No police report was filed. No crime was committed. Unless it’s okay with you, to be personally treated this way, then I suggest you phone the Houston county Sheriffs dept and call for his firing. 931-289-4614. And the restaurant involved was the Flood Zone (nice name)

  24. The dept is also blocking all comments BTW. Guess they don’t want anyone reading anything “bad” about their guys.

  25. Jim wrote:
    Fee for toilet illegal in TN
    TCA 39-17-105

    ~+~

    That pretty much says it all. Now the sheriff can be cited for violating that statute since he acted to help the restaurant owner collect the money. Plus, now the $5 debt is uncollectable.

  26. SHERIFF DARRELL R. ALLISON
    Elected 2010
    Sheriff’s Office Phone 9312894614
    Corrections Phone 9312894614
    Fax 9312895579
    3330 HIGHWAY 149, ERIN, TN 37061
    sheriffhcsoATgmailDOTcom

  27. No one is getting the whole story. The news media heard one side. The lady that needed to “go”. I know Flood Zone owners didn’t want to speak on camera, but they’ve spoken to others. This lady left the restroom in an awful and disgusting mess. That’s what the problem was, not just that she used the bathroom and didn’t buy anything. Also, why not just buy a mini ice cream come for .50?

  28. Thats an out right lie its not about the $5 its the fact that the they used the law to get the address to send the bill she only washed her hands and if anyone can prove different there may be other problems

  29. No matter what the woman did, legal procedures were NOT followed. Only “good ole boy” procedures. The owner of the restaurant files a complaint, the police take the complaint to the prosecutor, said prosecutor decides yay or nay on prosecuting the case. If it is a yay, then the perp is sent a letter in the mail telling them to appear in court. This was done like a back door, under the table deal. And it’s just too bad the people involved didn’t sue the sheriffs dept for giving out their info.

  30. Bron, just now saw your question. No I don’t know any of the people or places involved in this. It is not anywhere near me.

    Randy Edwards,
    Sorry to disagree, but at least part of this is indeed about the money. Here is the section of applicable Tennessee law:

    39-17-105 – Charge for use of public toilet facility prohibited.
    (a) It is an offense for a person maintaining toilet facilities available to the public to impose a charge for the use of the facility.
    (b) Each toilet facility maintained in violation of this section constitutes a separate offense.
    (c) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
    [Acts 1989, ch. 591, § 1.]

    A Class C misdemeanor In Tennessee carries a penalty not greater than thirty (30) days in jail or a fine not to exceed fifty dollars ($50.00), or both, unless otherwise provided by statute.

  31. Crazy as it seems, Houston County needs a serious cleaning out.. I know someone who used to work there at the jail, and did her job to a “T”…. Since everyone is all related to each other (i.e… staff and inmates). Inmates were allowed to do what ever they wanted. The Jail administrator and chef deputy wanted to get rid of said female, she has a CJ degree and a very lengthy credentials to boot. Said female even asked to do ride alongs and transfer to road deputy. Said female was denied without just cause. Other jail officers who were still in their teens with no background were permitted to do ride alongs. On the 2nd day said female was employed she was asked to do a inmate transport (due to her back ground) by the previous jail administrator.
    Said female was subsequently fired over a bogus accusation of assault by a local teen. No investigation no witnesses no nothing!!! She was not liked or appreciated, simply that wanted to get rid of her!!! Talk about the Good ole boy system… said female was loyal to her job, stayed late working a double shift many a times, even came in at the last minute when other officers called out… Charges were dismissed on said female – but was denied her job back…. Sad sad sad… I heard she was A+ at her job….

Comments are closed.