Twenty-three Uber drivers are facing misdemeanour charges after picking up riders in East Hampton and Montauk this month, and could face up to a year of jail time each.
Six of the drivers were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court Monday morning on charges that they had violated the town’s taxi laws.
East Hampton’s taxi code, which was revised last summer, requires each taxi driver to operate under a licence tied to a physical address in East Hampton.
“What they’re requiring is basically impossible to fulfil unless you’re a local taxi company,” Daniel Rodgers, the attorney representing Uber’s drivers, told Business Insider.
If they are found guilty, each Uber driver would have a criminal conviction on his or her records and could be forced to pay a minimum fine of $US500. In the worst-case scenario, each driver could be fined $US1,000 and spend up to a year in jail.
According to Rodgers, town officials are pushing for jail time.
All 23 of the drivers who had received violations were scheduled to be arraigned in East Hampton Monday morning, but the court failed to prepare the paperwork for all of the drivers in time. An arraignment for the remaining 17 drivers is scheduled for July 20, Rodgers said.
“Logistically, it was a huge inconvenience,” he said. “They lost a full day’s work to come out to East Hampton, but the paperwork was only prepared for six drivers today.”
East Hampton police issued violations to drivers who picked up customers over Memorial Day weekend, as well as the weekend after that. According to 27east, Uber claims that town officials told the company that if it halted operations in East Hampton, the drivers who had received violations would face reduced penalties.
Uber quit operating in East Hampton and Montauk on June 5.
“Part of the reason we pulled out was that we were told if we left the charges against the drivers would be dropped,” Uber spokesman Mathew Wing told 27east. “The town prosecutor [is] trying to pursue the maximum penalty under the law, which would make it a misdemeanour. They face up to a year in jail for ostensibly not having a business office.”
The map below shows the areas where Uber users are not currently able to hail a ride, though people can still hail an Uber from another city and be driven to East Hampton.
On the morning of June 5, Uber sent this note in an email to riders registered in East Hampton:
Today, the East Hampton Town supervisor is banning Uber. New rules would require every single Uber driver-partner to have an office in East Hampton to continue to hold their licence, which is impossible for our partners. As a result, riders like you will be unable to get reliable, safe rides in any part of East Hampton out to Montauk — effective immediately. We need your help to bring Uber back. Make your voice heard and contact Town Supervisor Cantwell today — tell him you need Uber in East Hampton.
The ban has caused a huge backlash in the community, which is known for its summertime party scene.
Town of East Hampton banning uber…DUI is a huge issue there – as a father with two young children driving those roads, this is madness
— Jon Steinberg (@jonsteinberg) June 5, 2015
Whoa, East Hampton effectively banning Uber. Terrible idea. Reduces drunk driving like crazy. And the cab situation is a joke.
— modest proposal (@modestproposal1) June 5, 2015
In the meantime, don’t expect to hail an Uber in the Hamptons anytime soon.
“Uber will continue to negotiate with the town for the protection of its drivers,” Rodgers said.