Wednesday, July 19, 2006

$150


A few months ago -- in fact, it was May 18, "Taxi Appreciation Day" -- I got a ticket by the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) for making a turn during daytime non-turning hours. I figured it wouldn't hurt to fight it, since the fine was for $150, no small amount of change, so I went down to the big TLC building in Long Island City last week and -- guess what? I lost.

I don't know why I ever thought for a second I might get out of it, since I was indeed guilty and the TLC is definitely not renowned for forgiveness, but I was determined to try nonetheless. When I got into the hearing room, the ticketing officer recognized me right away. He had seen his own picture posted on the site and amiably complained to me that he looked like he was sleeping in the shot. He wasn't. He was simply looking down, writing my ticket.

We chatted for a few minutes while the administrative judge finished up the case just before mine, and then we got sworn in. The officer gave his testimony, I gave mine, then showed the judge pictures of how there are no signs at the intersection of 49th and 2nd Ave warning drivers that, if they turn on 49th, they'll be trapped on a "Thru-Street," meaning you can't turn off until Park. This didn't really matter, I guess. I still made the turn, even though I didn't mean to break the law.

The whole thing took about ten minutes, and when we got out of the hearing room, I joked with the officer, saying "I hope I never see you again." Then I spent close to an hour waiting for the decision, and here I got to observe the unruly chaos of the TLC adjudication floor. Men streamed in and out of hearing rooms, chatted loudly on cell phones in the waiting area, and cheap lawyers in shiny suits "advised" drivers about how to plead.

Finally, my name was called over the loudspeaker and I approached the information desk. They were handing back decisions, and when I got up to the front, the woman behind the counter handed me a piece of paper and said, "Go to the cashier. Have a nice day." There was no joy in her voice, just a not-quite-polite monotone that seemed to come from repeating the same words over and over all day everyday.

The paper read as follows:

The Inspector credibly testified that, during an assignment at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 49th Street, on May 18, 2006 at 4:02 pm, he observed the driver/respondent in a taxi approach the intersection in a westbound direction and make a left onto Lexington Avenue (southbound) from East 49th Street. He testified that a sign was posted (facing east on 49th Street onto Lexington Avenue) stating "No left turns Monday thru Friday, 10:00am - 6:00pm." He then stopped the vehicle and personally issued summons to the respondent.

In her testimony, the respondent stated that the testimony of the inspector was accurate, but that she did not intentionally violate the "no turn" rule. She testified that she did not see the sign due to the volume of traffic.

Even though the respondent may not have intended to violate the "no turn" rule, this is not a valid defense to a violation of TLC Rule 2-21B2, as set forth in this summons.

Accordingly, a violation of 2-21B2 is sustained.

I guess the judge wasn't interested in my little "lack of a sign on 2nd Avenue" defense. (Note to DOT: Put a damn sign up there already.) But my main problem with the whole thing was that I'd rather get a ticket for something I actually meant to do, rather than just for some stupid mistake I made.

I paid my $150 at the cashier and vowed to never make that stupid mistake ever again.

44 comments:

jo said...

So TLC doesn't stand for tender loving care - how sad, and how confusing to have different no left turn rules for different days and times??

I am in NY in October. I love your city - but London is where my heart is.

xx

Mad Cabbie said...

"Even though the respondent may not have intended to violate the "no turn" rule, this is not a valid defense to a violation of TLC Rule 2-21B2, as set forth in this summons.

Accordingly, a violation of 2-21B2 is sustained."

This is fucken bullshit, so what kind of defense is a valid defense?
The Aliens were chasing me?

They should have knocked off at least $50 to make your trip worth while. Assholes!

Mad Cabbie.

Keith said...

My sympathies, that $ 150 came out of your pocket and had to be earned. It never ceases to amaze me how insensitive and shallow these pen pushers are to "real life". I'm having beurocratic problems to over here in England.

Hope you get some big tips to make up for the fine. How's the book coming along ?

sea voyage said...

Though you got to admit, it's great to get away with shit by accident...

Love your blog... Was wearing out my computer's "bookmark" checking for a new entry...

Come check out my adventure sailing across the Atlantic Ocean... (just click my name)

Keep on hackin' (all three ways)

Vernon said...

I GOT ONE BETTER THAN THAT. I was caught speeding, but there was no speed posted, but by the time I went back to show a judge, someone had posted a sign. The origional posted speed limit sign, was on the other side of the highway going the opposite direction.

KMart said...

I often wondered if cabbies could keep the rules straight in NYC... as there are probably 20 parking, pedestrian, and traffic signs per block there, making it a total crapshoot if you are doing things legally or not. I lived there for about 3 years, but only drove in town a handful of times. All i kept repeating to myself was "don't block the box, don't block the box"

KMart

Sharkeye said...

Sounds like NYC has their share of hacks (not cabs) like everywhere else..

Sharkeye

Julian said...

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PJ said...

Nice to know nothing has changed in regards to the TLC - truly yellow medallion cabs (notice I said yellow medallion cabs) should be subject to the same turning rules as buses at midtown intersections. The reason being as a cab driver you have no preplanned route and are subject to the direction given to you by your fare. Do the through streets even work? I’m a bit curious about that one as when I am driving I do my best to avoid them because they are usually hellishly backed up and you can’t escape.

wil said...

On the ladder of law enforcement careers, being a "Taxi cop" must be the lowest rung on the ladder.

"What was your most interesting felony arrest officer?"

"I've never made a felony arrest."

"Okay. What was your most interesting misdemeanor arrest?"

"I've never made a misdemeanor arrest."

"Exactly what do you do then, officer?"

"I write traffic summons to hacks."

catkins13 said...

never never never fight the t.l.c.! They don't care nor have a sense of humor. Valid reason my ass, now go do something WORTH $150 and don't get caught! Hell, do it twice...

Anonymous said...

I got a similiar ticket a few years back for making a turn I wasn't supposed to.

The cops pulled over at least 6 other cars for doing the same thing. In my defense, I couldn't see the sign because a truck was blocking it and I figured it was okay since the six cars before me did the same thing.

I also lost. It sucks.

EverJack1 said...

Oh, well. Live and learn, I guess. At least you tried. :o)

EverJack1

Anonymous said...

My sympathies also for the beauratatic fine. I honestly cannot imagine how cabbies get through the day - especially in NYC! Your patience as well as your tenacity are to be admired. Since reading your blog via Brogonzos Healthy Alternative To Life link, I cannot express my admiration for what you must tolerate daily.
And I thought my office job sucked! Keep up the good work! And keep up the faith!

Drunken Master said...

Sometimes I feel for institutions like the TLC. It's a thankless job, and surely they've heard all the reason and excuses in the book over the years, so I think they could be forgiven for being so desensitized. I haven't been on the recieving end of such a verdict, so I guess I'm still an outsider.

It's also good to know that you seem to understand that, given that you don't seem very bitter at all. The officer was just doing his job, and a thankless one at that.

Live and learn, MP, nice post though.

asy said...

I "Think" I may have done the same sorta thing this morning...

My kids' school has a drop off zone, and it's 'no standing' before it. The zone was full, but the last car in it had the kids jumping out already, so I sorta pulled over, indicating, and was waiting until she moved.

Before I knew it, my daughter had jumped out and run through the gate.

I figured oh, well, I may as well just go now.

The Crossing lady about 20m away wagged her finger at me as I took off, and only then did I realise she'd taken my number down.

I hope I don't join your ranks.

asy :D

Anonymous said...

Most people get tickets for things they don't mean to do dear. Although there are quite a few nutcases who knowingly break traffic rules, but don't ever expect them to fess up to it. :(

Anonymous said...

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. That is what they told me at law school, & I flunked out shortly thereafter.

inkyhack said...

There are so many stupid mistakes that I hope I never make again too. But I'm sure I will.

CharterJames said...

Sympathies. Kudos for fighting it though. The feeling that cops can write tickets on cabs pretty much at will is a constant stress. Have you had them pull one of their sneak-up- behind-you-with-their-lights-out jobbies on you yet? Watch for that.

Nicole said...

At least the ticketing officer is reading your blog! Maybe he'll cut you some slack next time if you post a more flattering picture of him :)

Anonymous said...

I was going through a school zone when the truck's engine beside me died and my vehicle passed his. There was a cop watching and I got a ticket for passing another vehicle in a school zone. I explained to the cop that the truck's engine died! I still got a ticket. So a word to the wise, never drive next to a piece of shit vehicle.

Ian said...

'didn't mean to' is never a valid defense otherwise the judge would have forgiven my speeding ticket I got when my wife was in labour ... didn't mean to, just anxious to get to the hospital!

CharterJames said...

asy

I believe you can be stopped in a 'no standing' zone as long as you are actively discharging passengers. So your kid might have saved you. I sounds like the sign was intended to prevent what you were actually intending to do, stop there while you waited for the proper zone to clear. If they want no actively at all ecept in the drop off zone then the sign should be 'no stopping'. Also sounds like the school guard is wrong. I am interpreting according to NY law of course.

Katy said...

oh well lets hope it is the last ticket you get for doing something you did not mean to do.

Windsornot said...

Well, as I always say, you can't blame a gal for trying at least. Sorry it didn't work out!

Anonymous said...

It sounds a lot like the "Alice's Restaurant" saga to me.
At least they did'nt make you sit in the "Group W" section with the "mother rapers & the "father rapers".
It's all a big racket !

Greg said...

I just realized something: You were issued a summons by a TLC cop for disobeying a traffic sign that applied to all vehicles (with the probable exception of emergency vehicles), not just taxis. Could/Would the TLC cop have issued a summons to a non-taxi vehicle that did the same thing you did? If not, to me that means cabbies and livey drivers are unfairly held to a higher standard.

By the way, my sister (who isn't a cabbie) was issued a summons (by the NYPD) for turning right onto Eighth Avenue from 42nd Street at a time when such a turn was prohibited. She didn't see the sign.

Off topic:

Since the temperature nearly reached 100° on Monday, some of the traffic lights here in Astoria have been out of service. On Broadway, the malfunctioning lights flash yellow for vehicles on Broadway and flash red for vehicles approaching Broadway on the cross street. A flashing yellow means "proceed with caution" while a flashing red is the same as a stop sign. But many drivers on Broadway come to a complete stop at the flashing yellows! Morons!

Megan said...

Ages ago I got a ticket for "loitering". A friend of mine lived next to a school. If you were on one side of the fence you were in his yard, the other side school property. Someone had called the police on the people who were lighting fireworks (not us!) but the cops found us! Instead of going to find the people actually causing trouble, the rookie officer wrote us all out loitering tickets. Good job keeping the world safe from the my STANDING! The second officer to show up said he would've just told us to move! The judge didn't seem to care that there was no sign or that I didn't know about the law or that I wouldn't have done it if I'd known...he fed me the usual "ignorance of the law is no excuse" line. One of the worst things about it? I had turned 17 two weeks before, so I had to pay it. My friend was 2 weeks from turning 17 and didn't have to pay! If only I'd been leaning on the other side of the fence!

Sorry to hear you had to pay. I'd say better luck next time, but how about 'I hope there is no next time'.

MJ06 said...

That sucks

Anonymous said...

I think there's a boffo script for " Law and Order " somewhere in all this.

JACK MCCOY: ( voice rising throughout courtroom ) Oh, come now, Miss New York Hack... Do you expect us... to believe that you didn't see any of the ...signs in question ?
N.Y.HACK: ( Shrugs )
JACK MCCOY: ( Looks around the room in a startled, herky-jerky fashion to see if anyone is noticing how much he resembles an ostrich. )

luigi said...

I fought the same ticket. I won because on my trip sheet I had written down I was going to 53 and Madison. But I made a left on 49 and lex. I told the judge the passenger was going to exit the car in the middle of the street cause he was late, so to avoid a potential accident I made the left.

the judge looked at the trip sheet saw the dest. and 5 mins of waiting in the area full of sleazly bloodsucking lawyers and TLC workers it got dismissed.

You have to lie...period. The system is rigged against us.

sorry about the 150 it hurts the pocket

Maria said...

some TLC you got there on "Taxi Appreciation Day!"

in the end, at least you can say "i tried."

:)

Tanj said...

damn girl.
gflad you tried anyway.

lugosi said...

I know exactly how you feel. A few years ago I robbed a bank and promptly got arrested. When the trial finally rolled around, I told the judge that I didn't realize it was illegal to demand cash from a bank where you don't have an account.

Jerk didn't buy my argument either.

bklynd said...

I gotta say, Melissa, this is a lame story. As many have pointed out, it does not matter if you meant to break a rule. But, as I read your account, it doesn't even sound like that was really the case! You didn't mean to turn onto 49th and get "trapped" in a no-turn lane. But you got caught turning out of the lane, right? - sounds like you intentionally did that.

pouty said...

well that's pretty stupid that they don't have a sign, but hey, that's what cities do sometimes. It sucks even more that it didn't even get reduced, although maybe it's different because it's a ticket issued by the TLC... because where I live, if you get a ticket issued by the city and you go to fight it, you're pretty much guaranteed to have it at least reduced because the officer who issued it generally never shows up, and the no-show is what gives you a reduced ticket.

JohannK (banjo) said...

Totally sucky. Totally sucky. =(

Hack-Man said...

Drunken Master, obviously you aren't a cab driver or even a New Yorker. If you were, you wouldn't be so quick to defend the TLC and say that "they were just doing their job" (ever hear of such a thing as "discretion"?). The TLC Hearing Court is the ultimate Kangaroo Court, and it only exists to collect revenue for the city. They don't care about a driver's guilt or innocence, they just care about money. Cab drivers in NYC don't agree about many things, but one thing we all agree about is the fact that the TLC are the biggest bunch of bloodsucking parasites this side of Transylvania!

Anonymous said...

Melissa thanks for a great website,i feel that it's a good time for you to stop driving yellow and switch to "Black cars".I think you will be safe and much more happier driving a luxury sedan.You wouldn't have to ride around all 12 hours,the most trips per shift you'll make is 8 or 9, so you'll get less stressed out, plus you'll know your pasengers names,addresses,where they work,etc.So that garbage that you had to deal with you won't see anymore.

Anonymous said...

Hello great blog. Nice to read about a taxi driver in Stockholm.

Me, myself used to work as a taxi driver in STockholm, Sweden when I was studying and I would like to share a story which u might find amusing talking about fines.

I was new at the job and really stressed to pick up a customer and therefore made a U-turn to get to the customer in time. What happens? Of course I see blue lights and the police comes out and wants to write me a ticket. I claim that I didn't do anything wrong since the sign only said it was forbidden to turn left, not forbidden to do a U-turn (even if one would think it implies U-turns too).

Anyway, I didn't confess guilty so it went to court where I lost and was ordered to pay the fine. I wasn't satisfied with the outcome of the ruling so I complained to a federal court where I also lost. I complained again and the supreme court of Sweden agreed to take my case where they decided in my favour. Since this verdict it's legal to do U-turns in Sweden even if the sign says it's forbidden to do a left turn.


Good luck with the work in the future and hope to read more from you.

Anonymous said...

Hello great blog. Nice to read about a taxi driver in Stockholm.

Me, myself used to work as a taxi driver in STockholm, Sweden when I was studying and I would like to share a story which u might find amusing talking about fines.

I was new at the job and really stressed to pick up a customer and therefore made a U-turn to get to the customer in time. What happens? Of course I see blue lights and the police comes out and wants to write me a ticket. I claim that I didn't do anything wrong since the sign only said it was forbidden to turn left, not forbidden to do a U-turn (even if one would think it implies U-turns too).

Anyway, I didn't confess guilty so it went to court where I lost and was ordered to pay the fine. I wasn't satisfied with the outcome of the ruling so I complained to a federal court where I also lost. I complained again and the supreme court of Sweden agreed to take my case where they decided in my favour. Since this verdict it's legal to do U-turns in Sweden even if the sign says it's forbidden to do a left turn.


Good luck with the work in the future and hope to read more from you.

Anonymous said...

OF course I mean nice to read about a taxi driver in New York.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if anyone encountered a situation in NYC where an NYPD officer ticketed a black car service driver with three summonses, after he picked up a hail in the street:

1) no trip sheet
2) no license
3) picking up on-street hail

This happened to a friend, would appreciate any advice on the matter and how to address it with the T+LC. The license issue is under NY Penal Law, but the other twp are under administrative law. Also, do regular NYPD officers have the authority to enforce administrative law, as well?

Thanks again for any feedback.