Taxis

New York's Taxi Commission Seems to Think Everybody Is Driving Illegal Cabs

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SEIZE THEM! SEIZE THEM ALL!
Credit: jimmy.kl / photo on flickr

So it appears that New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission can suspect just about anybody of picking up other people of operating an illegal cab. And based on just this suspicion, they are able seize people's vehicles until they prove otherwise. Guess the obvious outcome of such authority. It's about as bad as you can imagine (though at least they're not getting arrested). From DNAinfo New York:

Kareeal Akins still gets chills thinking about the long, frigid walk home that he and his then-pregnant wife were forced to make this past winter after the city seized his car.  

At about 9 p.m. on Jan. 24, he drove his white 2002 Honda Accord from his Sheepshead Bay apartment to the corner of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway in Kensington to pick up his wife, Natalie, from her friend's home.

He remembers pulling up to the intersection, his wife getting into his car and then a vehicle behind them flashing its sirens.

It wasn't police officers stopping them. It was two Taxi and Limousine Commission inspectors, enforcement agents tasked with policing livery cars and yellow taxis to protect New Yorkers from dangerous and uninsured illegal cabbies.

What many New Yorkers don't know is TLC inspectors also have the power to seize a vehicle they suspect of operating as an illegal cab.

And that's exactly what they did. They refused to believe the couple were married, and they ended up having to walk home in the freezing cold. A week later a judge dismissed the case after Kareel provided pay stubs showing he had a job elsewhere.

They were not alone, DNAinfo investigated more than 7,000 of these claims made by the commission over the year 2013. They found close to 1,500 cases that were dismissed because officials weren't following the law or ignoring explanations. Several of them were snagged like Kareeal for driving family members or friends around:

While the drivers proved their innocence, they still had their vehicles temporarily seized and either went without a car for weeks while they awaited their hearing at the tribunal in Long Island City or shelled out hefty sums to get it back from the impound lot. 

What could be the incentive for the officials to be such jerks? Money, of course:

The seizures are a revenue producer for the city. Accused drivers or the owners of the allegedly illegal cab can plead guilty, but must pay a fine of at least $600 and hundreds of dollars more for the cost of towing and impoundment.

The accused also have the option of posting a $2,000 bond to get their car out of an impound lot while they wait for their day in court. If they win, they get the money back.

Retired MTA bus maintainer John Brunson, 65, said even though he won his case, he ended up spending $1,200 on a rental car, a lawyer and towing fees.

The South Ozone Park resident had his black 2005 Dodge Magnum seized on Sept. 19, 2013, after he dropped his girlfriend off at her job at the Resorts World Casino in Queens. When she got out of the front passenger seat, she handed him a flier from Wal-Mart, where the two had been earlier in the day.

TLC Inspectors believed it was dollar bills and, working with the NYPD, they stopped his car as he left the casino's parking lot. 

DNAInfo has a number of additional examples linked to their story. Several cases revolve around minorities driving around friends (or partners) who happen to be white and the officials making assumptions.

(Hat tip to former Reason intern John K. Ross)

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  1. A week later a judge dismissed the case after Kareel provided pay stubs showing he had a job elsewhere.

    Which has nothing to do with whether he was still operating an illegal cab. Why did you not just look up the marriage permission slip he had filed with you already?

    1. Well since the question of whether he was actually operating an illegal cab really had nothing to do with why they seized his car in the first place, I would say it’s a wash.

      1. Being allowed to drive other people in your car is an important benefit enjoyed only by married people, Hugh. This is why SSM is so important.

        1. I’ve had trouble understanding why people still get married since the usefulness of that institution has long since run its course.

          But it’s becoming clear to me now that getting married is like finding a glowing meteor in the woods that gives you all kinds of crazy superpowers. No wonder the government has to step in and strictly regulate this powerful force.

          1. Health insurance from work. That’s why I got married.

          2. Since my wife doesn’t work, filing jointly has great benefits.

        2. Nikki, are you the Vikings fan? Here’s another example of your star QB’s horrible taste.

          If news of the Ponders’ baby wasn’t enough by itself, consider her name: “Bowden.”

  2. tribunal in Long Island City

    Cruel and unusual punishment

  3. Land of the free. Home of the brave.

  4. Obviously, the guy picking up the pregnant woman is operating a gypsy cab. Fucking tools. I’d go find me a lawyer to file a civil rights suit. Seems like an obvious case of racist/nativist profiling.

  5. Holy shit NYC. This is just like carjacking except you can’t even shoot the bastard doing it to you. Anarchists say the state is just a big criminal gang. They’re right, at least when it comes to NYC.

    1. No, we’re right about it when it comes to all government.

      1. Look, asshat, do you want civilization or not? Because if you do, then you need to set aside your petty claims of so-called rights and property. It’s the price we all pay.

        1. Rights don’t exist without government, so you have no right to complain when government takes away your rights.

          1. Exactly. If you want a civilized society, you need to give up any expectation of civilized behavior from the gubmint.

            Just think of it as your drunk and angry dad.

      2. Maybe, I’m still on the minarchist/anarchist fence, but some governments seem dedicated to making me join your side.

        On my extremely cynical days, I just note that the usual anarchist argument against minarchists

        You can’t stop a small state from growing back into Leviathan.

        and the usual minarchist argument against anarchists

        You can’t stop a government from taking hold without actually having a government.

        aren’t mutually exclusive and can technically both be correct. So we’re fucked.

    2. “This is just like carjacking except you can’t even shoot the bastard doing it ”

      I wouldn’t want to test my resolve in the situation.

  6. The seizures are a revenue producer for the city. Accused drivers or the owners of the allegedly illegal cab can plead guilty, but must pay a fine of at least $600 and hundreds of dollars more for the cost of towing and impoundment.

    That’s the only reason the philosopher-kings allow you filthy peasants to live: That perhaps you lazy scum will one day pay them off for their magnanimity in the form of taxes, fines, penalties, and bonds.

  7. Retired MTA bus maintainer John Brunson, 65, said even though he won his case, he ended up spending $1,200 on a rental car, a lawyer and towing fees.

    Look at all the economic activity this practice is generating! I’m sure Krugman approves.

  8. “They were not alone, DNAinfo investigated more than 7,000 of these claims made by the commission over the year 2013. They found close to 1,500 cases that were dismissed because officials weren’t following the law or ignoring explanations.”

    That’s racketeering. Systematically stealing cars is a crime.

    They should all be prosecuted under RICO.

    Why hasn’t the FBI sought any indictments?

  9. I have to say that driving in NYC is one of the premiere ways the government there can fuck with you. Before I got rid of my cars, I was pulled over for turning right on Madison between certain hours, for having a taillight out, and some other stuff. Once I got rid of the car and only took black cars, taxis, or the subway, I was pretty much free and clear. Of course, this was mostly pre-9/11, when they couldn’t just search your bags at a whim and the like.

    1. One of my last black car drivers there told me a few weeks ago that he had just switched from yellow cab to black car, and the yellow cabs get massively fucked with by the cops too?but the black cars don’t.

      1. The black cars technically can’t pick someone up on the street (though I’ve had it done during some really busy traffic), so they’re harder to fuck with. I also imagine they are a powerful lobby.

        1. The Right People use black car services, so they’re cool.

          1. Actually, all kinds of people use black car services (much more convenient for a trip to the airport, or in any situation where you know when you are leaving and can call ahead), so you really don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s mainly that they generally don’t pick up people on the street like a regular taxi and therefore are generally “going about their business” and are harder to fuck with.

            1. Not all black car users are the Right People, but all Right People are black car users.

              (I don’t actually know. Just saying that you can’t discount personal bias in usage for disparate enforcement)

    2. I have to say that driving in NYC is one of the premiere ways the government there can fuck with you.

      Seriously, I never thought about it very much until I got a car. Registration was one of those complete WTF moments for somebody from a non-car-owning culture. I see, I’m supposed to pay the state repeatedly for the privilege of operating my own vehicle…basically because if I don’t and they catch me, they’ll make me pay even more. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a complete scam.

  10. And if the Islamics attack NYC again, we are supposed to care?

    I really don’t believe I will. In fact, the Islamics can have the place.

    1. You were trying to be as big of a dipshit as possible, right? Excellent work.

      1. What, Warty, you don’t want to be a regional collectivist scumbag? REGION WAR! REGION WAR!

        1. Wait a minute, you’re from New York? I take it back. BOMB NEW YORK

          1. Epi is from everywhere, Warty. At least judging from his irrelevant personal anecdotes in every thread.

    2. Well, if they attack NYC again, it’ll be hard to say they did it because they hate our freedoms.

  11. Why would anyone live in NYC?

    1. Masochism? Hipster-ism?
      .
      I have no clue. I’d rather have the train commute and live on Long Island (or in Westchester) in a house than pay more to live in a shoe closet in the city.

    2. I wouldn’t live there, but it really is a remarkable place, in spite of their government’s attempts to fuck it up. And if you are white and don’t drive, it’s pretty easy to keep off of their radar.

    3. Ahem

      “I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window – no, I don’t feel how small I am – but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.”

      Guess who?

      1. Nat Hentoff?

        1. Oh. Never mind.

    4. I know, right, why would anyone stay there when there are so many other metropolises with a great economy, world-class arts, cuisine, and museums, which are totally libertarian?

      1. Q: What did socialists use for light before candles?

        A: Electricity

    5. For the opportunity to prove that the “7th largest army in the world” is as useful as a bucket of warm shit by putting white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge?

  12. Publications such as Reason need to make it clear that this is not just an instance of officials acting badly. Rather it is, under our current construct of permits/permission slips, completely unavoidable. Pointing out the singular incedent is helpful but to advance liberty-centric policy, the fact that sort of thing will continue without beating back the state’s influence in our day to day life.

  13. I can’t wait to leave this fucking city.

    It’s amazing that more than 200 years ago we fought a violent and bloody revolution over so much less.

  14. So if instead the man had handed his wife $20 as she got out of the car, obviously she is a prostitute

  15. If you’re driving in NYC, you must be a black-market cabbie, because the Right People just don’t drive.

  16. “Several cases revolve around minorities driving around friends (or partners) who happen to be white and the officials making assumptions.”

    So they are profiling mixed marriages. I thought the miscegenation laws were gone; but they are apparently alive and well in NYC.

  17. I challenge anyone to logically explain to me why I should have to get permission from the government in order to use my car to transport someone from point A to point B in exchange for money.

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