Criminal Possession Of A Taximeter Accelerating Device In New York
Are You at Risk for Prosecution for the Criminal Possession of a Taximeter Accelerating Device in New York?
Taxicabs are everywhere in New York and are essential to the functioning of the city. Local governments pass laws regulating the taxicab industry in order to protect the members of the public from unreasonable prices. Taxicabs are regulated by governmental agencies, but sometimes taxicab operators try to make some extra money by defrauding their passengers.
In certain situations, the taxicab operator may use a taximeter accelerating device in order to add additional and unearned charges to a passengers fare. Because taxicabs are so common and widely used in New York, it is not extremely uncommon to find yourself accused of the criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device.
There are a few instances where you may find yourself facing charges for criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device, such as:
- A passenger in the taxicab that you are driving believes the fare is higher than it should be and they report you to the authorities
- You are transporting some goods across town for a friend, and some of the goods in your vehicle are taximeter accelerating devices.
- A passenger in the taxicab you are driving is having a bad day and reports you for overcharging for the fare when you were operating fully within the law.
Statutes Governing the Criminal Possession of a Taximeter Accelerating Device in New York
Article 145 of the New York State Penal Law is titled criminal mischief and related offenses. Among these related offenses is an offense titled criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device.
Under NY PL § 145.70, the criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device is a class A misdemeanor. Before diving into the elements of the crime and what the prosecutors must prove in order to convict you, let us define a couple of important terms for the purposes of this statute.
What is a taximeter?
Before you can understand the criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device, you must first understand what a taximeter is and what a taximeter accelerating device is. According to NY PL § 145.70, a “taximeter” is defined as a device or instrument that automatically calculates the charge to a rider in a vehicle licensed to transport individuals for hire, in accordance with local law, and display this charge to the rider.
The statute goes on to further define a “taximeter accelerating device” as a device or instrument that triggers a taximeter to increase the displayed charge by an amount in excess of the maximum amount allowed by local law. Now that we have an understanding of what a taximeter and a taximeter accelerating device are let us dive into the elements of the crime.
In order to be convicted of criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device under NY PL § 145.70, the prosecutor must prove all of the following elements:
ELement#1: You knowingly possess
- In order to satisfy this element of the offense, you must knowingly possess the taximeter accelerating device. If you do not know that you are in possession of the taximeter accelerating device, you would not satisfy this element of the offense.
- For example, assume you work at a taxicab company with many cabs, and the taxi you normally use is in the shop being repaired. You are given another taxi to use in the meantime, and this taxi, unbeknownst to you, has a taximeter accelerating device installed in it. In that situation, you would not satisfy the knowingly possess element of the offense.
Element#2: With the intent to unlawfully use
- In order to satisfy this element of the offense, you must have the intent to use unlawfully the taximeter accelerating device you possess. According to NY PL § 145.70, if you knowingly possess the taximeter accelerating device, there is a rebuttable presumption that you intended to use it unlawfully
- For example, if you are pulled over in your personal vehicle and it is established that you are in possession of a taximeter accelerating device, that could later be installed in a taxicab, you may satisfy this element of the offense, as the rebuttable presumption is that you had the intent to use it unlawfully.
Element#3: A taximeter accelerating device
- In order to satisfy this element, the device in your possession must be a taximeter accelerating device. As mentioned above and stated earlier in the statute, a taximeter accelerating device is any device or instrument that causes a higher charge to be displayed on the taximeter than is allowable under local law.
- For example, if you operate a vehicle as a cab (in full compliance with local law) and you are caught with a device that adds an additional dollar to the fare every two miles, you may have satisfied this element of the offense.
Federal Statutes Governing Criminal Possession of a Taximeter Accelerating Device
Federal law also addresses the criminal possession of a taximeter device, although not as specifically as New York state law does. Under Title 18, Chapter 47, Section 1029 of the United States Code is titled “Fraud and related activity in connection with access devices.” This federal statute is the one that would be most similar to criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device.
Access device and unauthorized access devise definition
Under this section, the term “access device” is defined to include equipment that can be used, along with other equipment, to obtain money or that can be used to initiate a funds transfer. Furthermore, the term “unauthorized access device” is defined as any access device that is stolen, lost, or obtained with intent to defraud. This language is very similar to the language used in the New York Penal Law statute.
This definition of access device and unauthorized access device can reasonably be said to include taximeters and taximeter accelerating devices. Under 18 U.S.C. § 1029, here are some situations where you have committed the offense of fraud and related activity in connection with access devices:
- You knowingly and intentionally use one or more counterfeit access devices;
- You knowingly and intentionally use one or more counterfeit access devices over the course of a year and obtain things of value that add up to a thousand dollars ($1,000) or more; or
- You knowingly and intentionally possess fifteen (15) or more unauthorized access devices
The punishment for violating this federal statute is dependent on whether or not you have previously been convicted of an offense under section 1029.
If this is the first time you are being convicted for an offense under this section, the punishment is a fine or a period of imprisonment not to exceed fifteen (15) years, or both. If you have previously been convicted for a crime under this section, the penalty increases to a fine or a period of imprisonment not to exceed twenty (20) years, or both.
Regardless of prior conviction under this section, you must forfeit any personal property that was used or intended for use in committing the offense. Furthermore, even if you are located outside of the United States, you may not be immune from prosecution under this statute.
If you engage in practices that would be an offense under this section from outside of the country, but the owner of the access device is organized under United States law or the law of any State, you are still subject to all of the punishments ascribed.
- For example, if you reside in Panama and operate a taxicab company in the United States and install a taximeter accelerating devices on your vehicles, you are still potentially subject to prosecution under federal and state law.
Offenses Related to Criminal Possession of a Taximeter Accelerating Device
The most closely related offense to criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device is petit larceny. Article 155 of the New York Penal Law describes the crimes of larceny. Larceny under New York law is defined at NY PL § 155.
According to this definition, you commit larceny when you wrongfully obtain, withhold, or take property from the lawful owner with the intent to deprive that person of possession or such property. Larceny can be achieved through means of deceit such as embezzlement, obtaining property through false pretenses, larceny by trespassory taking, and common law larceny by trick.
When committing the offense of criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device, the larceny can be most closely related to larceny by trick. The customer has been tricked into paying more for the fare than was earned.
Grand Larceny and Petit Larceny definition
Larceny under New York law can roughly be divided into two crimes, grand larceny, and petit larceny. Generally speaking, grand larceny applies in situations where the value of the stolen item(s) is in excess of one thousand dollars ($1,000). Under NY PL § 155.25, petit larceny is simply defined as the stealing of property.
Petit larceny occurs when you steal property with a value of less than one thousand dollars ($1,000). Under New York law petit larceny is a class A misdemeanor. Depending on the situation, it is possible to face a slew of charges surrounding this crime all at once.
Would it be possible to be convicted with criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device and petit larceny under the New York Penal Law and to be charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1029 for the same occurrence?
It would be possible to be charged with criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device and petit larceny under the New York Penal Law and to be charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1029 for the same occurrence.
You could be convicted for criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device under New York law for simply having the device connected to the taximeter in your taxicab, convicted for petit larceny under New York law for all of the money you stole in unlawful charges to the fare, and you could be convicted of fraud and related activity in connection with access devices under federal law.
If convicted of all three you face up to two (2) years imprisonment under New York law and up to ten (10) years imprisonment for a first offense, or up to twenty (20) years for a repeat offense under federal law. You similarly may face fines for all three convictions as well as having to make forfeitures of personal property used or intended for use to commit the offense.
Agencies Tasked with Investigating the Criminal Possession of a Taximeter Accelerating Device
Because taxicabs are such a vital part of the functioning of the city of New York, the NYPD has a strong interest in ensuring that the taxicabs operating within its borders are following the law. It is likely that the majority of investigations for the criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device begin with a member of the public calling in a complaint.
Many residents and frequent visitors of New York take taxicabs frequently. If an individual takes the same cab ride frequently, they likely know approximately how much the ride should cost. If the fare presented at the destination greatly exceeds the usual approximate cost, the passenger may report the driver/operator of the cab.
Armed with this customer tip, the NYPD can now investigate the vehicle and determine if the driver is in possession of the prohibited accelerating device. The city also has a Taxi and Limousine Commission tasked with investigating these sorts of matters.
Can governmental agencies be involved in investigating?
On the federal level, a litany of governmental agencies may be involved in investigating fraud and related activity in connection with access devices. In addition to the usual suspects at the federal level, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secret Service is among the agencies tasked with enforcing the requisite forfeitures governed by the section 413 of the Controlled Substances Act, with the exception of subsection (d).
As you can see, there are countless agencies and agents working against you, shouldn’t you have one of our legal experts on your side?
Statutory Penalties for Criminal Possession of a Taximeter Accelerating Device
The criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device is a class A misdemeanor under the New York Penal Code. The punishment for a class A misdemeanor under New York law is a term of imprisonment not to exceed one (1) year or a period of probation not to exceed three (3) year. In addition, you may also be fined up to $1,000 or twice the amount of your financial gain from the crime.
If you are convicted of the federal offense defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1029, fraud and related activity in connection with an access device, you may face up to ten (10) years of imprisonment for a first offense or twenty (20) years and a fine, or both. Additionally, under federal law, you are required to forfeit all personal property that was intended to be used or actually used in committing the crime.
The crime of petit larceny is a class A misdemeanor under the New York Penal Code. The punishment for a class A misdemeanor under New York law is a term of imprisonment not to exceed one (1) year or a period of probation not to exceed three (3) year. In addition, you may also be fined up to $1,000 or twice the amount of your financial gain from the crime.
Legal Defenses to Criminal Possession of a Taximeter Accelerating Device
There may be some defenses available to you to defend against a charge of criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device.
- First, you may be able to challenge that your actions rose to the level that would satisfy each of the elements of the crime. It may be a defense that you did not know that you were in possession of a taximeter accelerating device, as you may not have had full control of the vehicle at all times. If the vehicle you are using is the property of a taxicab company, they may have installed the device without your knowledge.
- It is also possible to argue that your actions did not rise to the necessary level to satisfy the second element of the offense. In order to be convicted of criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device, you must have the intent to use the device unlawfully.
You may be able to prove that you did not intend to use the device for an unlawful purpose, but this will be a tough defense to prove because there is a presumption that if you possess the device that you intended to use it unlawfully. This is because it would be extremely difficult to catch the suspect unlawfully using the device.
You may be able to produce evidence that you possessed the taximeter accelerating device for some lawful purpose. Because this is an extremely difficult defense to assert and successfully prove you need a legal expert on your team, who has experience with similar cases.
We Are Here To Help, Call Us Now!
The criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device is a more serious crime than you may have thought, and can have some harsh legal consequences. With the potential for fines, probation, and even jail time, having a knowledgeable lawyer can make all the difference in the world.
New York City has an extremely strong interest in ensuring that members of the public are not paying more than they should for taxicab rides. With the possibility of multiple counts on both the federal and state level, proceeding without adequate legal representation is unwise. Retaining counsel early on in the legal process ensures the highest likelihood of a positive outcome for you.
For any questions about the criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device in New York, or to have a confidential consultation with one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys, please reach out to us today. We have a nearby office that will be able to assist you.