Just when you thought unlawful seizures might become a thing of the past, it turns out a local government agency in New York City has been getting in on the act.
In a supposed effort to curb unlicensed cabs, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has been seizing suspected cars from drivers. If you’re wondering why these are considered unlawful seizures, it’s because they’re not actually waiting to prove a crime was committed.
A little information on NYC cabs is necessary. To put it bluntly, there simply aren’t enough. The city limits the number of cabs registered in the city which creates an artificial shortage of cabs. The licenses are so hard to acquire that they sell for as much as $1 million each. What compounds the problem more is that cabs tend to congregate where the highest fares can be obtained.
As the head of the TLC admitted:
“You’ve probably heard the statistics many times already: 97 percent of yellow taxi trips originate in Manhattan and the airports, even though 80% of the City’s residents live in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island.” (Reason)
The TLC’s response to so-called illegal cabs and services such as Uber and Lyft has been to seize suspected vehicles. These are then held until the owner admits guilt and pays a fine. Otherwise he or she must wait weeks to try and defend themselves in court.
If this presumption of guilt until proven innocent sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve covered something similar before: civil forfeiture. Once again government is using the presumption of guilt to take property from suspected people before they even have a chance in court.
More recently, people have begun to fight back. The TLC had its own day in court after being sued for this practice and the judge presiding over the case resoundingly told the TLC they were breaking the law.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni stated that:
“‘Probable cause’ is not a talismanic phrase that can be waved like a wand to justify the seizure of any property without a warrant” (Forbes)
Unfortunately this type of near criminal overreach by government seems to be a trend. When law enforcement starts monetizing their activities and turning themselves into a business, this is one of the results. Simply put, it was in the best interest of the TLC to cast their net as wide as possible to generate revenue. It didn’t matter if innocent people were caught and fined.
This is why it is so vital we have people like Paul to stand up and represent normal Americans. Government can have a way of forgetting who they serve if it’s not held accountable for their actions. Especially when they begin being run as a for-profit business.
Do you think our liberties are under assault as well? Does this look just like civil forfeiture with a new name to you? Share your thoughts with us about these unlawful seizures on Twitter and stay abreast of issues affecting your 4th Amendment rights on Facebook.
(Photo courtesy of Ruth Hartnup, Flickr CC BY 2.0)
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