California gives cities and counties the authority to regulate taxicabs within their borders. Each entity regulates them slightly differently, but most require at least a business permit. Operating without this permit is usually illegal.
Los Angeles Vehicle for Hire Laws
People who are found to be operating an illegal taxi or other vehicle for hire in the Los Angeles area are in violation of LAMC 71.02(a) and/or LAMC 71.03. LAMC stands for Los Angeles Municipal Code.
LAMC 71.02(a) makes it illegal for an automobile for hire to operate within the city of Los Angeles without a franchise or written permit from the city. This applies to any vehicle that is being driven for a fee, whether or not the driver makes a claim to be a taxicab. People sometimes unknowingly violate this law when they offer to drive friends, family, acquaintances or strangers around for a small fee.
LAMC 71.03 has two sections that potentially apply to vehicles for hire.
- People driving illegal taxis with taximeters, signs or lights indicating that they are a taxi may be in violation of 71.03(c). This states that no taxicab may be driven within the city limits without a permit.
- LAMC 71.03(d) requires that all vehicles for hire obtain permits as well. This part of the law applies to vehicles that do not make claims to be taxis and/or are not equipped with taximeters, signs or lights. Any vehicle that is driven for a fee without a permit is in violation of this section.
Consequences of This Violation
Violating LAMC 71.02(a) and 71.03 may not seem like a big deal, especially if the violation was accidental, but the consequences can be large. The violation is actually a misdemeanor criminal offense, not an infraction like many traffic tickets. The vehicle in question will usually be impounded for 30 days if the driver is charged with violating one of these codes.
How Police Locate Illegal Vehicles for Hire
The Los Angeles Police Department specifically searches for bandit cabs and illegal vehicles for hire. They typically locate them by responding to online rideshare ads or flagging down vehicles that appear to be operating as bandit cabs. These stings result in hundreds of arrests every month.
What Happens after Being Charged
Once a police officer has determined that a vehicle is possibly being operated as an illegal taxicab, they will usually:
- Issue the driver a citation
- Impound the vehicle
- Notify the driver of his or her court date
Individuals charged with violating these codes must appear in court. They or their lawyer can argue the case in several ways, which may or may not result in dismissal of the charges. For example, one defense is that the driver only asked for reimbursement of gas costs.
If a person is found guilty, there may be thousands of dollars in fees to pay, including:
- Court fees
- Impound fees
It is therefore important that drivers are aware of the rules and regulations above in order to save themselves the trouble of legal hassles.