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. @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!

  2. 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………..

  3. I Am the one whos plate was run and my wife did try to pay her bill I Think I need a Lawyer

  4. I think leins s used more often than people thnk on spy on private citizens….

  5. This is what America is turning into. A Corporate Police State. We are running out of time to do something about it.

  6. @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.

  7. 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.)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  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. 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.

  14. 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.

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