What does “Nonconsent Tow” Mean?

The issue of what constitutes a “nonconsent tow” in Texas is sometimes raised in tow hearings and towing litigation.  This term is defined by the Texas Towing and Booting Act (the “TTBA”). Tex. Occ. Code § 2308.002(6) (LEXIS 2014).  The TTBA defines “nonconsent tow” as “any tow of a motor vehicle that is not a consent tow, including (A) an incident management tow; and (B) a private property tow.” Id.  While this definition is quite straightforward, it references two other types of tows that will always be considered nonconsent: (i) incident management tows and (ii) private property towsId. Each of these terms is specifically defined in the TTBA.

“Incident management tow” means any tow of a vehicle in which the tow truck is summoned to the scene of a traffic accident or to an incident, including the removal of a vehicle, commercial cargo, and commercial debris, from an accident or incident scene.  Tex. Occ. Code §2308.002(5-a) (LEXIS 2014). While incident management tows are technically nonconsent tows, they are rarely the subject of much contention given that many times the owner or operator of the vehicle is typically present at the time of the tow.  It should be noted that the TTBA provides no definition for the term “incident.”  Instead, that term is defined in 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 86.10(10). as “an unplanned randomly occurring traffic event that adversely affects normal traffic operations.

“Private property tow” means any tow of a vehicle authorized by a parking facility owner without the consent of the owner or operator of the vehicle.  Id. at § 2308.002(8-a)(LEXIS 2014).  Private property tows are the number one reason that people file for Tow Hearings (aka 452 Hearings) and civil lawsuits against tow companies in Texas.  Thus, if a tow company engages in private property tows, it should be very careful to ensure that each tow complies with the Texas Towing and Booting Act’s requirements, that each operator is properly licensed, and each truck is properly permitted.  Towing a vehicle in violation of the TTBA can result in substantial liability for a tow company from both a civil and administrative standpoint and, potentially, criminal prosecution.  See generally Chapter 2308, Tex. Occ. Code.  

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