Lyft.com, Sidecar, and other websites helping everyday drivers give other people rides as needed (i.e. tag along on your morning commute, etc.), have recently come under fire by some police departments as being “bandit cabs”. Police departments consider “bandit cabs” taxi services that are operating without a permit.
While this may sound like something out of a movie, getting a ticket for being a part of Lyft.com or Sidecar can be a serious issue that needs to be dealt with.
Before we going into how you can deal with it, let’s talk more about what how a bandit cab situation plays out.
How “Bandit Cab” Stings Work
The police department may setup a situation where they can catch supposed bandit cabs in action, and then ticket them. The police usually do the following to catch bandit cabs in action:
- They answer ads that offer unlicensed cab services.
- They solicit rides from drivers who they believe are operating a cab without a permit.
- They witness an exchange of money between a driver and a rider in an unmarked vehicle.
If you got caught up in a situation like this, the police can cite you and in some cases even impound your vehicle.
So What Does Lyft.com and Sidecar Have to Do With This?
Lyft.com and Sidecar are on-demand ridesharing services. In short, drivers are matched with passengers who request rides. The driver then picks them up, takes them to their destination, and gets paid through Lyft’s or Sidecar’s system.
In the eyes of the police department, they often consider the driver to be operating a cab service without a permit.
If You Got a Ticket Using Lyft.com or Sidecar, What Can You Do?
It is possible that a police officer could charge a Lyft or Sidecar driver with unlawful “bandit cab” activities. If they insist on writing up a ticket and impounding your vehicle, cooperate with the police officer, but refrain from admitting to wrongdoing.
You’ll need speak with an attorney to get specific advice, but below are things to consider to not make the situation worse.
- Get Your Driver’s License Out– Do not wait for the police officer to ask for your license. If the insurance and registration card is handy, grab that too. If the cop has not pulled out a ticket book, you may be able to talk your way out of the charge. Having your driver’s license ready is always viewed as a sign of cooperation.
- Ask What You Did– When the police officer asks you if you know what you have done, it’s never a bad idea to say “I must have missed it.” Alternatively, you might say, “I’m not sure what I did.” Saying “I’m sorry” at anytime to law enforcement usually communicates that you know you’ve done something wrong.
- Explain the Money Exchange, If Asked – If the police officer accuses you of taking money for rides, you could consider explaining that the exchange of money is just to pay for gas. This is a valid reason and the police officer may accept the explanation and walk away. However, we recommend you speak with attorney before you start discussing specific details like this.
Speak with an Attorney Before Speaking with Lyft or Sidecar
If you end up getting a ticket, or worse (getting your car impounded), you should contact an attorney right away. The situation can get quite complex, and Lyft or Sidecar are most likely not going to be able to contact the police department on your behalf since it’s already a ticket within their system at this point.
The world of technology and transportation is constantly evolving, and if you get a ticket for operating a Lyft, Sidecar, or another rideshare service, you need to be sure you handle it in the right way.
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