Entrapping Drivers For Hire: Your Tax Dollars at Work in Los Angeles

From L.A. Weekly the other week, we see how cash-strapped municipalities protect the public, by screwing around with innocent people trying to provide a fair and needed service to other innocent people.

Here's what the L.A. cops did to licensed, registered, and insured limo driver Andy Chung:

Andy Chung became suspicious when he turned down Figueroa Street. He had received a call asking for a ride to Westwood. But as he approached the Hotel Figueroa, he saw that another vehicle had been pulled over by the police. He kept driving....

A few minutes later, the fare called again and asked why the cab never showed up. 

"The driver was there," Chung said. "The police were there. Are you the police?"

"I'm not the police," the man replied. "I'm a student. I need to go to Westwood."

In fact, the man was an undercover cop. Shortly after Chung circled back to the hotel, he was in handcuffs — accused of operating an illegal taxi.

Chung, 65, is a state-licensed limo driver, with valid registration and insurance. Nevertheless, he had run afoul of the byzantine licensing scheme that governs taxi services. And he was about to pay dearly for it.

At a court hearing in March, Chung refused to accept a plea bargain. He believed he had followed the rules. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to 150 days behind bars.

And the best part? Potential customers of these service providers who use "legal" taxis pay a surcharge to help pay overtime to LAPD's finest to pull this sort of crap, and a thousand such arrests of drivers trying to deliver a service happen every year in L.A.

The legal distinction between a sinister limo and a legally protected taxicab is that limos have to have both pickup and dropoff pre-arranged, with paperwork to prove it, not just pick up anyone who needs a ride. This sort of archaic law of course helps stymie the super-efficiency-raising innovations in transportation services like Uber.

Uber, a San Francisco–based startup, allows passengers to arrange limo trips with their smartphones. The Uber app works as a booking service for state-licensed town cars. Taxi regulators in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have alleged that Uber is actually operating as a taxi service without following local taxi ordinances.

The company does not appear to have much of a foothold yet in Los Angeles, but if it gains traction here, both the city and the franchised taxi companies are likely to raise similar concerns. 

In other words, bad law that funnels money into the city's system through fines will trump the more efficient use of vehicle and driver hours and satisfying people who need to get around for hire. Government, where would we be without you? Getting more rides, cheaper.

A great Wired article on the potential wonders of Uber.

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  • Brutus||

    A hundred and fifty days in the hoosegow for acting like a taxi instead of a limo??

    It's going to be so much fun watching this state circle the bowl.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The article says he did eight days. That was eight days too many.

    People plead guilty just to get out of LA county jail--because they'd rather do a whole lot of time in the state pen than a couple of weeks in LA County jail.

    It says he was released due to overcrowding. Our prisons are so overcrowded, we've been ordered by the courts to cut the population down by whatever means. They've released some violent prisoners in the past this way.

    ...which is another way of saying that instead of making the necessary budget cuts, Sacramento would rather release convicted, violent wife beaters.

    Oh, but I guess all logic goes out the window when you're talking about an activity that guarantees the cops' overtime.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    They've released some violent prisoners in the past this way.

    ...which is another way of saying that instead of making the necessary budget cuts, Sacramento would rather release convicted, violent wife beaters.

    SOP.

    Rather than release the tens of thousands of drug users who are in the CA penal system, they'll release violent felons and cry that they have to release violent felons in order to garner support from the population for more taxes.

    Government is such a fucking con job. And if us marks don't go along with the con, we get fucked.

  • ftw||

    I wish I could call you a cynical SOB, but I fear you are correct.

  • mr simple||

    No, the article says he was released eight days early, so 142 days.

  • mr simple||

    No I'm wrong, you're right. Sorry.

  • Robert||

    No, it wasn't 8 days early, it said "after 8 days".

    The cops were luring drivers like him into a technical fault. All he was missing from the paperwork was the name of the passenger, which the cop refused to give.

    The requirement of the passenger's name is just to establish on the record that he wasn't picking up anonymous fares at a location like a hack. But of course the police knew the ride was arranged, because they'd arranged it. So it's an undercover operation that doesn't even serve the function of preventing competition from limo drivers to hacks.

    In terms of narcotics undercover operations, the equivalent would be inducing pharmacists to fill prescriptions for someone who was undoubtedly the person entitled to receive the drugs but had something wrong with identifying paperwork.

  • mr simple||

    I already said that.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    But over regulation isn't the problem with our economy.
    No way, no how.

  • Joe R.||

    Not enough supply of taxis to meet consumer demand? MARKET FAYLYURE!

  • wef||

    You libertarian complainers. Just imagine what you'd do as a thug-state functionary. You could do something dangerous, such as go after gangsters and violent criminal types, or you could go after peaceful and otherwise law-abiding fools trying to make a living giving other people something they want in exchange for a little monetary consideration. You have a choice. What would you do? Of course, you'd harass the safe scofflaws. So give the police a break.

    And remember you are a subject, not a citizen.

  • Agammamon||

    Look, where would government be if it allowed the free movement of its citizens withins its boundarieds? Soon these people might start thinking they could take their taxable income somewhere else.

    It looks like LA government has been reading Frank Herbert's "Dune".

  • mr simple||

    LA is such a shitty city. I wouldn't wish my arch-enemy to live there.

  • Robert||

    Kewl, you have an arch-enemy! Is it Mr. Complicated?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Ms. Complicated. Duh.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    We can have insane amounts of white space and tiny ass font, but we can't have alt-text.

  • ||

    The less fortunate get all the breaks!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Is there some sort of alt-text safety net? Because I may have to get in on that.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Legitimate question: Considering he spent 142 days in jail for the distinction between a limo and taxi, would you say he has a case for a constitutional suit on 8th Amendment grounds?

  • Sevo||

    Auric Demonocles| 7.31.12 @ 10:14PM |#
    "Legitimate question: Considering he spent 142 days in jail for the distinction between a limo and taxi, would you say he has a case for a constitutional suit on 8th Amendment grounds?"
    Practical answer: Constitution? What's that?

  • mr simple||

    See, I'm not the only one who misread the time served.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Actually I was going off of your comment. That really cuts down on the argument of cruel and unusual, but its still conceivable as he spent over a week in jail for this shit.

  • some guy||

    Justice Roberts: "I'm going to have to defer to the Legislature on the definition of "cruel and unusual" in this context. Next case!

  • R C Dean||

    The site fits perfectly on an IPad in landscape position, so that's what the white space is for.

  • some guy||

    "I'm not the police," the man replied. "I'm a student. I need to go to Westwood."

    I'm sure these same cops lament the fact that so few citizens trust them anymore...

  • Auric Demonocles||

    dunphy is convinced that they do trust him.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Delusions of grandeur.

  • GILMORE||

    ...to help pay overtime to LAPD

    I am SHOCKED!!

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