NYC Taxi Drivers File GPS Tracking Lawsuit

The Supreme Court’s Recent GPS Tracking Decision May Impact NYC Taxi Drivers

Last week NYC taxi drivers Koffi Aka and Robert Carniol filed a federal class action lawsuit against New York City, its Taxi and Limousine Commission, and commissioner Chairman David Yassky, according to the New York Courthouse News. The cab drivers’ lawsuit claims that “warrantless” GPS tracking has exposed thousands of taxi drivers to bogus prosecutions and license revocations.

Carniol and Aka, lead plaintiffs, are trying to use the Supreme Court’s recent GPS tracking decision to support their case.

The Supreme Court’s decision basically says police cannot use a GPS tracking device to monitor a suspect’s location without first obtaining a warrant, and law enforcement cannot use evidence gathered by a GPS tracking device against a suspect to convict him of a crime.

Carniol is one of thousands of taxi drivers that were accused of overcharging his taxi passengers by pushing the out-of-town rate on their meter in 2010. He was found guilty in an administrative hearing and lost his license.

gps tracking taxi cabAccording to the New York Daily News, a city investigation in 2010 revealed that roughly 36,000 NYC taxi drivers overcharged passengers a whopping $8.3 million on 1.8 million trips, using a scam as simple as pressing a button. The illegal income came during a 26-month period reviewed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission using data gathered from GPS tracking devices, technology that drivers fiercely resisted.

But attorney Dan Ackman is arguing in State Supreme court next month that officials obtained GPS data about his client and others illegally.

“In many cases, including Mr. Carniol’s, the TLC ultimately revoked hack licenses solely on the basis of GPS tracking evidence, without even a single complaining witnesses complaining or testifying against them,” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs are demanding punitive damages for the class and an order declaring warrantless GPS tracking of cab drivers unconstitutional.

However, the city is hoping to have the case dismissed. New York City Law Department Senior Counsel Diana Murray defended the legality of its GPS tracking in an email statement to Courthouse News:

“The courts have long recognized that 4th Amendment privacy protections are not applicable to certain highly regulated industries such as the pawn shop and taxi industries,” Murray wrote. “TLC only receives GPS data from taxicabs when the driver is on-duty – not when the driver is off-duty. Also, except for credit and debit card information, data collected from the GPS tracking devices reflects exactly the same information that cab drivers have long been required to document in handwritten trip sheets.”