Why are Boston Hackney Unit Citations for Lyft Drivers Issued, But Easily Dismissed?
Citations given to Lyft drivers for operating an illegal vehicle for hire are part of a campaign to intimidate Lyft drivers and passengers.
Campaign goals include:
- Scare Lyft passengers by telling them that Lyft drivers are not given background checks and might be Level 3 Sex Offenders, the most dangerous level.
- Scare Lyft passengers by telling them that Lyft drivers do not have adequate insurance. Passengers are told that if they’re in an accident, their medical bills might not be paid
- Discourage Lyft drivers from wearing the pink mustache on their grill to advertise the service.
- Convince Lyft drivers to stop providing rides, otherwise they will continually get $500 tickets, they will be arrested and their vehicles will be impounded.
None of these statements by Hackney officers are true. They know that the citations are easily dismissed. However the goals of the intimidation campaign are achieved regardless.
On April 11, 2014 at 7:30 pm I was stopped at the corner of Melcher Street and A Street in South Boston by a Boston Police officer from the Hackney Division, ID# 11091. I had three passengers in my vehicle. Lyft has an electronically time-stamped record of the name and pick up time of the passenger who pre-arranged the ride with me. I did not pick up the passengers in response to a street hail.
Officer 11091 asked me for my license. I asked: Was I speeding?
He curtly said: No, you’re not speeding; you’re operating an illegal taxi. You just picked up these passengers illegally.
I said: No, sir, I’m not an illegal taxi, I’m a Lyft driver.
He appeared to be angry at this point and was extremely intimidating. I was naturally in fear of being in trouble with the police.
He said: I don’t care what you think you are. You’re using your personal vehicle as an illegal taxi. You don’t have livery plates, so you’re violating the law.
He went back to his vehicle and returned with Citation #192555 issued to me personally as the Violator. The Offense was entered as Chapter 16-15.5, with the Description: Illegal Vehicle for Hire with a $500 assessment.
I said: Sir, you know that last year the Hackney Division of the City of Boston issued over 700 citations to drivers operating as illegal taxis in violation of this statute. Please tell me how many of these operators were Lyft drivers.
He said in a bullying tone: You seem to know an awful lot about this.
I said: Yes I do sir. How many were Lyft drivers?
He said: I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.
I said: You know and I know that this citation will never stick. There are hundreds of Lyft drivers in the city.
He said in a threatening tone in front of my passengers: I can arrest you.
I said: If I’m an illegal taxi, you should arrest me right now. Are you arresting me?
He said: Look, I’m giving you a break.
I said: I think the reason you won’t arrest me is because I’m not an illegal taxi.
He then threw my driver’s license and the citation in my lap.
He then frightened my passengers saying: Get out of the car now. I’m getting you a taxi.
The passengers followed the officer and entered a nearby taxi.
The proceeding was attended by me, the Clerk Magistrate of the Boston Municipal Court and the Boston Police officer assigned to the court for that morning. He was not the Hackney Unit officer who gave me the citation.
The officer read the citation stating it said I violated City of Boston Chapter 16-15.5 by operating an illegal vehicle for hire. He then read that the Hackney officer observed my private vehicle picking up a fare illegally after having been flagged down.
Clerk Magistrate: Is this what you did, Mr. Gossage?
Gordon: No sir. I’m a driver associated with the Lyft ride sharing service. The ride was pre-arranged. I have a dispatch record.
[The Clerk Magistrate read the record to himself while I was speaking]
Gordon: I was notified at 7:20 while at 339 Summer Street that a passenger requested a ride. I accepted the ride 7 seconds later at 323 Summer Street. I picked up the passenger 6 minutes later at 7:26 at 76 Melcher Street. As you can see, sir, on the citation the Hackney officer stopped me at 7:30 at Melcher Street and A Street.
Looking at the officer, the Clerk Magistrate asked: Have you seen this?
Clerk Magistrate: Do you have any objection to this?
Officer: No, sir.
Clerk Magistrate: Claim denied.
Gordon: What do I do now?
Clerk Magistrate: You rip it up Mr. Gossage.
Gordon: Thank you very much, sir.
The entire proceeding lasted approximately 90 seconds.
Despite the false statements and the easy dismissal, the Hackney officer once again succeeded in intimidating the Lyft passenger and the Lyft driver.
I’ve given over 2,300 rides. At least 1,000 were in Boston. I’m asking the Hackney Unit to immediately subpoena Lyft for all 2,300 Lyft rides to determine how many were in Boston. I confess in advance that I’ve given rides to all of these Lyft passengers and since I was operating an illegal taxi in each case I owe the City of Boston $500 for each ride. This should total at least $500,000.
Given that I’m such a scofflaw and that I continue to operate my Illegal Taxi with the Pink Mustache, I’m asking an officer of the Hackney Unit to arrest me.
In a previous version of this post I referred to an event.
After discussions with the Boston Police Department, it was determined that holding an event as previously described without a permit would result in all participants being arrested. Therefore we are cancelling the event.
Please no longer use #StopTheHacks online.