In Taxi & Limousine Comm'n v. Richards, the OATH ALJ recommended reinstatement after the driver was suspended based on a charge of felony criminal mischief. The driver and his wife testified credibly that he was the victim of sharp practices by seller of 2016 Chevrolet Suburban and that he did not slash the tires of that vehicle on the night the owner attempted to repossess it from respondent. The ALJ found that the conduct, even if the charge was assumed to be true, was isolated incident in an otherwise law-abiding life and and focused as well on the driver's excellent customer service history and good driving record. The TLC general counsel accepted the recommendation. See Taxi & Limousine Comm’n v. Richards, OATH Index No. 256/22 (Sept. 2, 2021), adopted, Comm'r Dec. (Sept. 7, 2021), appended.
The ALJ decision is perhaps the longest on record. It concludes:
"Based on the unrefuted evidence adduced by respondent, I find, after full consideration of the record in this case that he would not pose a direct or substantial danger to public safety if his license were restored pending the outcome of his criminal case. To the contrary, I find it more likely that he was the victim of sharp practices by two men, one who, apparently without authority to do so, initially rented the 2016 SUV to respondent, only to see it repossessed for the lessor's failure to pay what he owed on the vehicle, and another who then attempted to sell it to respondent for a substantial sum of money, even though it was in poor condition and needed significant and expensive repairs. The evidence respondent supplied was credible and unrebutted. He credibly denied that he damaged Kudrevich's vehicle. His TLC driving record is excellent, and TLC presented no evidence of a poor DMV or TLC driving history. Respondent himself disclosed two short-lived incidents in an otherwise unblemished driving history, and he has no criminal record prior to this incident. His testimony and that of his wife was credible and convincing, and his contentions were corroborated and well-documented by contractual documents, contemporaneous receipts, and other materials that provided context to his failed contract with Kudrevich. While there is some nexus between the duties of a TLC-licensed driver to transport the public safely and the alleged off-duty tire-slashing, respondent showed that he is level-headed and provided a cogent explanation that tends to render any such nexus attenuated in this case. His testimony also raised serious questions about the identity of the person who in fact damaged the tires."
This decision is a positive sign that drivers can win reinstatement even if charged with a felony. In fact, year-to-date, drivers are winning more than 80% of the time in post-suspension cases.
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