ATTENTION READERS: WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS A CONTINUATION OF AN EXISTING STORY. FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR, I WOULD SUGGEST YOU START AT THE BEGINNING
OR PREVIOUS POSTS:
“Cops lie on tickets and reports.” That’s what I said before and I meant it. If you don’t believe me please, continue reading.
The process of pleading not guilty to a TaxiCab Authority citation is not all that different from fighting one in the Municipal or Justice courts. In fact you’d rather it be TA that cites you for the simple fact that a TaxiCab Authority citation will never appear on your personal driving record and thus, has no impact on your car insurance rates. Plus, the fines themselves are significantly lower that what you would find in the Municipal or Justice court systems. The downsides to the TA court is that their officers actually show up for the hearings so there will be no default victories here and let us not forget that they, unlike the Municipal or Justice courts, have the authority to revoke your permit. Get too many tickets in a certain period of time and that’s exactly what will happen.
If you’ll recall, the TaxiCab Authority officer and I had a disagreement at the time he wrote me the ticket. His claim was that I was “interfering with traffic while loading” and that there were in fact, two vehicles directly behind me when I loaded. My claim (as well as my passenger’s) was that there wasn’t any traffic behind me. The first time I actually read the statute long ago that was something that I took out of it. It never says, I can’t load anywhere outside of a cabstand under any circumstances. It doesn’t say anything about stopping in a lane of traffic. It doesn’t even say anything about seeking a fare. It only talks about Intersections & Crosswalks, and Traffic. Read it and decide for yourself.
NRS 706-8845-9 Standards of conduct while on duty: While a driver is on duty he shall-not load or unload passengers or luggage at an intersection or crosswalk, or at any place or in any manner that will interfere with the orderly flow of traffic.
(Added to NRS by 1969, 1246; A 1981, 2055)
It seems to me that, if the real purpose of this statute was to absolutely prohibit cab drivers from loading flags, than the statute would read something more like, “While a driver is on duty, he shall not load passengers or luggage on any city streets under any circumstances at any time.” Or something to that effect. Some type of language that clearly, steadfastly and unequivocally opposes the practice seems necessary if you want to steadfastly and unequivocally issue tickets and convince the public that this practice is in fact illegal in the process. But that is not how I read it. I read it like, if I don’t load at an intersection, or a crosswalk, and I don’t interfere with any traffic, than I am not in violation. It seems to me that the terms ‘intersection”, “crosswalk” & “traffic” are something of qualifiers for the violation. Requirement, I believe the term is. It doesn’t say, you can’t do this ever, at all, period. It says, if this, and or this, or this, than a violation has occurred. If you’ll concede that point, than the next logical step is to conclude that if those “ifs” don’t happen, those qualifiers don’t occur, than a violation has not taken place. This is why I told the TA Officer Hinkle at the scene that I did not know why he pulled me over. In my mind, none of those “ifs” where committed, none of those qualifiers breached. That was, and is my interpretation of the law. But I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a cabbie who likes to read.
Regardless of all of that. a bigger problem is in front of us. Even if we could by some miracle convince the Judge to agree with our interpretation, and convince him to rule against something he’s ruled in favor of countless times, none of that matters right now because we still have an officer who’s testimony is going to be that there were “two cars directly behind” me. He’s claiming that one of the qualifiers was met. The officer of the law is going to tell the Judge that there was traffic there and I interfered it. I’m going to tell the Judge that there was no traffic, and thus could not have interfered any. Who do you think the Judge is going to believe? It’s a classic he said/she said which in court results in a battle of credibility. Which party is more believable? What are the motives? Who’s story is more reasonable and makes sense? Who’s facts or in order? Naturally the officer of the law is more credible than the cab driver, naturally, so we have to level the balance. We need to go over the entire scenario with a fine toothed comb and examine every little “fact” for what is in the hopes of finding some mistakes or inaccuracies or inconsistencies or anything that we might be able to use in court to raise some doubt. If we can show that some mistakes were made elsewhere by the officer, than we can suggest that perhaps this observation of traffic is a mistake too. In this particular case, if the Judge deems the officer credible, I’m in big trouble. If the officer is credible, and the traffic “directly behind me” existed, than there isn’t much I can say about anything, let alone I can’t even make the larger and more meaningful argument that I’d been waiting to. I can’t say, “your Honor, the statute is not being enforced properly by the officer, the statute says I can’t interfere with traffic and there wasn’t any traffic there at the time of issuance therefore a violation could not have occurred.” The Judge is just going to say, well the officer says there WAS traffic therefore your argument is moot. So we have to do our homework, we have to be boy scouts, we need to get prepared.
The TaxiCab Authority is a unique body of government due to it’s vast array of powers. In addition to the overall administrative regulation of the entire taxi and limo industry, they have both enforcement and prosecutorial powers over the industry within their scope as well. Considering the extent of their control, including the ability to write, enforce and prosecute the law, and since this arrangement is strangely void of any traditional governmental checks and balances, I believe it is necessary that such an administration be held to a very high standard. In a situation such as this, the first step in seeing to that is to make an appearance at the TA office and enter your plea. It’s just like the prison-DMV they have at the regular courthouse downtown, only this one is for cab drivers only and you’ll need a key to access the bathroom if you require.
The TA office is located on the 1700 block of east Sahara inside a miniature business complex. The business park is not very fitting of a government agency and that’s not a knock on it but more just to say that it just seems like a weird location for a State Administration‘s headquarters. The TA office and courtrooms are located on the second level of the main building, way in the back, very far from the bathrooms that you’ll need a key for but that’s ok. Since this office only services cab drivers, it generally makes for shorter wait times, at least compared to its judicial counterparts. So much so that after you sign in upon arriving with your name and permit number, you will usually hear your named called within about 15 minutes. That’s not even enough time to get a meaningful bit of reading in. Another bonus compared to it’s sister courts is no bullet proof glass and no ill-functioning speaker boxes. You actually get to talk to somebody face-to-face. Unfortunately however, this is not in anyway an indication of quality customer service. On a few different occasions the incompetence level of the staff in that office, or perhaps it’s arrogance rather, has had my blood boiling. On one occasion specifically, the folks in there had me so hot that I was on the verge of committing multiple felonies. Seriously, I doubt I’ve ever been closer to doing something incredibly stupid than I was that day. But that’s another story for another time.
On this day, 2 months after I was cited on Las Vegas Blvd downtown for loading those two young couples, I arrived at the T.A.. I signed in on the clipboard along with my permit number and a notation as to what my business was. I checked the box that said, “Citations”. In a relatively short period of time my name was called and I took a seat in at one of the bank teller style cubicles. Martha, was the nice ladies name that helped me and after sitting down I told her I was there to enter my plea for this citation and handed it over to her.
“And what will be your plea?” Martha asked.
“Not guilty,” I said.
“Ok,” Martha replied and started typing on her computer keyboard. After a few moments she said, “ well this is your first offense for this infraction and it’s only a $80 fine, if you’d wish to plead guilty today I can knock it down to $60.”
“That’s ok,” I said “ I don’t think I’m guilty so I wish to plead that way.”
“That’s fine” she said, “I will set your court date now just give me a couple minutes.”
“That would be great” I said, “also at this time I would like to exercise a discovery motion.”
The discovery motion, I first got the idea from the citation itself. On the backside of every TaxiCab Authority ticket, there is a large section of print regarding the TA’s procedures for paying and challenging citations. Under the “Hearing Procedures” section, it mentions the respondents right of discovery. As you may already be aware; upon request and by law, the prosecution must make available to the defendant prior to the hearing any and all pieces of evidence that they plan to show against him. This practice is procedurally mandated at both the Federal and State levels. Discovery is one of the foundations for our entire legal system, it serves to keep the prosecution accountable by allowing the defense a reasonable amount of time to prepare their arguments as well as to verify the authenticity of the evidence that is to be presented against them. This is crucial to any defense, and even though this sort of activity is generally associated with a major court case, it can and should be utilized by anyone for any defense, even those wishing to represent themselves in simple traffic citation hearings. Perhaps you remember the famous scene in My Cousin Vinny when Joe Pesci learns this simple procedure for the first time, albeit already well into the most important case of his non-existent career.
Stop and think about it for a moment, what could the State possibly have to show against you? Don’t over think it because it’s not much. In reality, all the evidence that exist to substantiate a traffic citation is usually just two things; 1. The Ticket and 2. The officers report. The State will plan to show two things against you, the ticket itself, and the officer’s statement. You may not have realized, but for every ticket an officer issues, he must also write a statement or investigators report which is really nothing more than a paragraph or two describing the event. It’s really just the citation in essay form. It also serves as a reference point for the officer while in court as he surely can’t be expected to remember every detail about every citation he wrote 6 months ago. The contents of that report, and the specifics on the ticket itself are in and of themselves the State’s entire case and thus must be gone over with careful scrutiny.
“Ok that’s not a problem,” Martha said, “so you really don’t think you did it huh?”
“What was the ticket for?” she said picking it up to read again. Afterwards she put it down and continued working on the computer. I got the feeling that Martha thought I was running a fools errand. She didn’t think I had chance at all. She finally printed out three pages, grabbing them as they fed out of the printer and showing me in succession that one was a photocopy of the ticket, which of course, I already had my original, the second was a copy of the typed officers report and the third was simply a reminder for my assigned court date. The first thing I noticed when she first showed them to me was how long the report was. It was a full page, easily the longest I had ever seen and I think Martha thought the same thing, or perhaps she was just curious about my plight, but for whatever reason she pulled the pages back before handing them to me and decided to read the report for herself, and I sat there in silence while she did.
After Martha was done reading she seemed to smirk while pulling the papers away from her eyes. “What do you think?” I said after she finally handed them to me.
“I think you’re guilty” she said…
Below you will find scans of the fruits of my discovery motion. I already told you my version of the events, now you can, and should view the Officer’s as well. They are hard to read I’m sure but you can click on the pictures themselves and increase the size in your viewing software, I will also copy the text from the Officer’s report to here for easier reading( I don‘t believe it’s practical to attempt the same with the citation). I have removed all of my personal information from both documents.
Page 1 of 1
EVENT # 091004-003 CITATION # 29941
DATE 10/04/09 TIME: 0025 hrs.
LOCATION: Las Vegas Blvd s/b @ Fremont Street
On the above date, time and location, I was conducting target enforcement. I was looking specifically for cabs stopping in the red restricted fire zone, at the intersection of Fremont Street and LVB s/b. There, cabs are known to stop and load and also impede the flow of traffic.
At the above stated time, I was parked directly across from the LVB facing w/b. I had a clear and un-obstructed view of LVB and Fremont Street. I saw (omitted cab co. and #) turn s/b on LVB from e/b Ogden. As he approached the intersection, I say that he was talking on his cell phone. He drove slowly and was looking at people walking along the street. Four people flagged him down and he continued talking on his cell phone, he stopped in the number three lane. He loaded those four people and the traffic signal was green. Behind his cab, were one vehicle and two motorcycles. They had to wait while he loaded his cab. Shortly thereafter, he engaged his meter and continued south on LVB.
I conducted a traffic strop and identified the driver as (name omitted) via his TA permit # (omitted) and his Nevada Drivers License. I asked if he knew why I stopped him. He said he did not. I explained my observations and told him, he was not allowed to pick-up on the street nor is he allowed to stop in a traffic lane and load his cab. He then asked me if I was citing him for “LVO” or “NRS”. I explained he was being cited for interfering with traffic when loading and a verbal warning for loading other than an established cab stand.
(Name omitted) began to argue with me about there not being any traffic behind him while he was loading. I further explained that he could not have known because he was talking on his cell phone the entire time. He made no other statements after being told that. I let the driver keep the ride and cited him for NRS 706.8845-9, interfering with traffic when loading.
(Name omitted) was cited for NRS 706.8845-9 interfering with traffic when loading and given a verbal warning for loading in an area other than an established cab stand.
K. HINKLE #553
To be continued…PART VII