I Was Arrested for a Law that Doesn’t Exist

Cop Block article, By Kris Bailey:

Here is the story about my arrest August 26th, and the reasons for it.  I met Chris Nielsen, owner of Electric Cab of Austin, during my recent campaign for Austin City Council.

Chris has been waging a three-year-long battle with the City of Austin over his idea for a green energy business giving pedestrians rides in low-speed electric vehicles–all on a “tips only” basis.  He does not charge for these services, as the mobile marketing company generates its revenue from advertising on the sides of the vehicles.

There is no law actually prohibiting him from operating this business, it is true, but, the enforcement side of the city–the police–have determined that the lack of a law regulating a business constitutes operating in violation of a law.  Nielsen’s drivers have received around 200 tickets and arrests now, over a law that does not exist.

The Austin City Council has had this issue in front of them multiple times, Chris said, yet never seems to vote on it, always deciding instead to continue to “study” it, thus delaying it a few more months.Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent “studying” his very small business.  The Urban Transportation Commission has recommended multiple times that the city issue him a permit to operate.  Yet, our Austin City Council refuses to act, and ignores the business repeatedly and pretends that nothing is wrong.

I have been told by multiple City Council members that nothing is “preventing” this business from operating. I met with multiple council members and made several phone calls, wrote e-mails, etc…. and came to realize that Chris Nielsen was right: He is being ignored, and the City of Austin does not wish this business to exist. Why?  The taxi lobby is concerned about competition, and donated $36,700  between all of the sitting members of the city council and the Mayor. I’m not making any direct accusations against anyone here, but I will say it gives the impression that we have private businesses buying harassment of their competition.

So, I drove a cart for him.  I gave two rides on Friday night.  The first was to a couple of women who, when dropped off, handed me a few dollars and thanked me.  I did not charge them–they voluntarily handed me the money.  At this point, three APD officers stopped me and wrote me a ticket for “Operating without a permit” and “No chauffeur’s license.”  I tried to explain that the permit and license did not exist, but they didn’t care.  I asked, multiple times, if they had read the ordinances I was accused of violating, and the officers refused to cite the law I was allegedly breaking.  They told me if they saw me operating again, they would arrest me.  (Read here to see that to be a chauffeured vehicle, requiring permit, as defined by Austin City code, there must be a passenger that is being charged a fee).

I decided that the Austin Police Department does not have the right or the authority to shut down a business on a whim.  I picked up another person, and gave him a ride.  I dropped him off where he asked to go.  The police officers saw him hand me $4 (again, I did not charge him) and immediately came to me and put me in handcuffs.  I was arrested without discussion or hesitation, and taken directly to jail.  It was quite the experience.  I got to spend the night with a lot of the late Friday evening drunks, one of them throwing up all over the floor right next to me.  I stayed in jail until I was released the next morning.

Every single officer I interacted with in jail–granted, they work for a different department: county officers have no problem trashing the city police–made comments about what a waste of time my arrest was.  I could hear them talking about it the entire night, and none of them supported my charges nor the fact that I was there.  The officer taking my mugshot and fingerprints showed my file to everyone else working in the jail, commenting about how incredibly stupid my arrest was, and making multiple remarks about the priorities of our police chief.

My arrest was for a law that did not exist, I have done nothing wrong, and our City Council refuses to even discuss that there could be a problem. In the meantime, a small business is being quietly bankrupted by the city with impound fees and arrests of its employees.  Another driver, a 19-year-old girl, was arrested just last week for the same non-existent charge that I was.

I am appealing to anyone who cares about green energy, anyone who cares about small businesses, anyone who cares about police accountability, anyone who cares about wasted resources, anyone who thinks incidents like these should not happen: Please, please, write to the Austin City Council members and tell them what an injustice they are committing.  It does not matter where you live, the issue of governments shutting down businesses concerns everyone across this country.  Please show your support for us.  We are helping keep drunk drivers off the streets, don’t charge for our services, and desperately desire to contribute to this community that we love so much.

You can contact the Mayor and the City Council here.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UYRUSZ72UUAH7RJPYGIKONNT34 Ed Martin

    Cops sure are stupid.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LTXY3N2L6Q43HTWA4I5MCRE67Q Al

    What about Judges in Texas giving someone 5 years on paper for not violating a crime and even taking her children away?

  • Jim

    I read that in Texas it is the law a person may resist an illegal arrest with any appropriate force necessary.

    If there is no law being broken, there is no legal arrest.

    Maybe you need someone riding shotgun like on the stage coaches of the Old West.

    I’d also be filing a series of lawsuits and civil rights violations – lengthy and costly – but you may well win big in the end.

  • Cloverleaf762

    Start a
    serious lawsuit and it will get settled in short order. That would be against
    the police officers for false arrest and imprisonment in their personal
    capacity (As no law was broken it is not there job to arbitrarily arrest and
    violate the rights of people.). If the DA or city attorney works with the
    police and attempts to prosecute then attach them to the suite. If you wait for
    the “system” to fix it nothing will get done in a reasonable time if
    at all.

    • Justajo

      I agree. While we should assist this person and company, I find it difficult to understand why an attorney has not been retained. This is a slam-dunk for even the most inexperienced barrister, I should think. It’s puzzling they’ve let this go for several years now as the police and city run rough-shod over them…unless we aren’t being told everything or all the lawyers in Texas are as crooked as Bush and Co.

  • http://twitter.com/ValVenisEnt Sean Morley

    FREETARIAN.COM – Why are American cops so possessed with the need to arrest people for MAN MADE CRIMES and Anything else they can call a crime on a whim? If nobody’s rights to life, liberty or property have been violated, no real crime has been committed! Follow me @ValVenisENT:twitter

  • Speak2mehere69

    you guys need to visit the site:
    http://www.ticketslayer.com/

    this will help you loads…then you can take the city council to court and sue them!!!!!

  • Joe in Missouri

    “…it gives the impression that we have private businesses buying
    harassment of their competition.”   THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE HELL YOU HAVE.

  • Captain America

    Joe in Missouri 8 hours ago”…it gives the impression that we have private businesses buyingharassment of their competition.”   THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE HELL YOU HAVE.And the Mega-Corps lobbyist are doing the same thing on a grand scale to the whole damn country.   What the problem here is, is LOBBYISTS.  We need to outlaw the lobbying of any elected official.  Force Lobbyists to lobby the constituents themselves for what they want.   Police, are just Thugs with Badges.  Their dumb muscle that do what their told.”As they are lead, so will they follow” ~German proverb

  • Alice Lillie

    Outrageous. But unfortunately typical. I hope you fight, fight, fight. I am dismayed that just about every day I have to post a comment of this sort.

    People are too docile these days to fight back, also they are too busy working to keep up with their taxes. *WHAT* has to be done to turn things around?It is not a free country any more, not by a long shot.

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  • Anonymous

    How about giving your neighbor a ride in your car and accepting some “gas money” in appreciation. Make sure a cop is there to view it.

    Then do it again, accepting $2 labeled “loan.”

    Next time label the envelope “repayment of loan.”

    After that, “lunch money.”

    “You will know idiots by their actions.” Unfortunately, they too often get re-elected. (See White House)

  • Guy Stauber

    Welcome to the fascist police state!
    This s happening across the country, lemonade stands and any other business that is unusual is attacked! A law care service here in town operates on the same model, a bunch of kids using the homeowners equipment and supplies to take care of their lawn attacked for not being bonded and licensed and having their own equipment. The state has become so deranged that they now attack childrens businesses – we are truly a pathetic nation!