In America, you’ve enjoy the right to the presumption of innocence.
Read the Bill of Rights — half of them are devoted to protecting the rights of criminal defendants.
Yet somehow, this protection does not apply to Taxi & Limousine Commission (“TLC”) licensed drivers.
If you drive a yellow taxi in New York City, and you’re arrested for a crime (even a misdemeanor), the TLC will suspend your TLC license until the charges are dropped or otherwise disposed of.
It does seem quite un-American, and I’m not sure that this policy would survive litigation if someone were to sue the TLC in federal court.
But for now, the policy stands, based on the principle that it is a privilege, not a right, to possess a TLC license; and that, as an administrative agency, the TLC does not need to offer the same protections that a defendant would enjoy in criminal court.
Upon your arrest, your TLC privileges are immediately suspended. If you try to log into your TLC account to take a fare, you’ll see that you are locked out and unable to proceed.
A few days later, you will receive a notice in the mail from the TLC advising of your suspension due to the arrest. And you’ll be presented with two choices:
Accept the suspension. You will be suspended until the criminal charges are dropped.
The majority of criminal charges, especially those of otherwise law-abiding citizens, are eventually dismissed. But this process can take months, or years, especially for more complicated cases and more serious crimes. If you’re a TLC driver, this could mean an extended and indefinite period of time that you can’t earn a living.
2) Fight the suspension at a hearing.
Whenever a public agency deprives you of a right or privilege that similarly-situated people enjoy, you are entitled to a hearing. This is the legal principle of due process.
At TLC, these hearings are virtual. The judge, TLC prosecutor, respondent (that’s you, the TLC driver) and/or his attorney appear on WebEx.
The TLC prosecutor will lay out the details of the charge, as luridly as possible, and make the case that these charges mean you are a danger to the taxi-using public.
You can be suspended, and lose this hearing, even if your arrest has no practical connection to your job as a TLC driver.
From there, you or your lawyer takes the stage, and can present evidence and make arguments as to why, in substance, the City and the public would be better served with you still working as the criminal case remains ongoing.
TLC will take pains to remind you that this hearing is public; meaning, if you opt for a hearing and lose, people will be able to find the details of your case through the TLC’s web site. Don’t fall for this — it’s a classic intimidation tactic.
If you’re arrested for a crime, you should demand a hearing. It’s the only way to drive TLC while your criminal matter is pending, which could take months or years.
My office has handled these matters before. If this happens to you, contact us.