What would you do if you accidentally stiffed a cab driver? You could be the most honest person in the world, but if you forgot to hit the ATM and don't realize it until the end of your cab ride, you're going to be stuck with a bill you can't pay. In the movies it's common for empty-pocketed riders to make like a jet as soon as the taxi stops; but as you'll find out below, running from your cab fee is a very bad idea. Read on to learn the proper way to handle the uncomfortable situation of not having the cash to pay for your cab ride.
The Possible Consequences
Not paying your cab fare is considered theft of services, often referred to as "defrauding an innkeeper". If your lack of payment was honestly an accident, you'll get your chance to prove that at court, but if you can't prove it, your punishment varies by state.
Usually, people convicted of theft of services must make good on their bill and pay a fine (up to $4,000). Not only that, but in some cities, private taxi cab owners add your name to a blacklist, so catching a ride becomes a whole lot more difficult to achieve. One of the most bizarre punishments ever dished out for not paying a cab fare comes from Ohio where a judge gave a woman a choice -- walk 30 miles in 48 hours or spend the next 30 days in jail.
Don't worry, though. You can avoid fines, jail time, and a walk of shame by following these rules for what to do if you ever can't pay your cab fare.
Be Honest With Your Driver. There's a good chance your cab driver is pretty good as sensing whether you're trying to stiff them or just having a really bad day. Your first step to make good on forgetting your cash is to be open and honest with your driver as soon as you realize your mistake. If you're willing to work the problem out, chances are your driver is too; ask them how other people in your situation have handled this happening, and what way-to-get-money options he or she feels comfortable with helping you achieve.
It may cost you some additional fare, but your taxi driver will probably be more than happy to transport you back home or to the nearest bank and wait for you to run inside for money.
Take Your Ticket. If you run into the unlikely situation where a cab driver refuses to work with you and wants to phone the police, graciously agree that they do so. The arriving officer will issue you a citation to appear in court.
Before your court date, contact the cab company who reported the theft of services and pay your fee. When your court date arrives, your charges will be dismissed under a motion of civil compromise, and the whole troublesome experience will be over with.
When The Cab Company Won't Accept Payment
If the cab company feels as though you had the intent of not paying your fare before you got in the taxi, they may refuse to let you pay your fee after your court citation has been issued. This prevents repeat offenders by ensuring that their cases can't easily be dismissed. If this happens to you, you'll need to prepare a defense. You'll need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt you had no intention of stiffing the cab driver when you got in their vehicle.
Each case will be judged on its individual merits. When you get to court, any of the following things will help boost your credibility and prove your honesty.
Ability To Pay For Cab. Showing that you actually had the funds at the time of your ride but just didn't have access to them can help prove your intent.
Lack Of Criminal History. If you had a perfectly clean criminal history up until this incident, chances are you wouldn't risk that record on skirting a cab fare.
Compliance. People who intend to get a taxi ride and not pay for it generally try not to stick around and kindly wait for their punishment. Be cooperative with your cab driver and the police when they issue you your citation, and the judge will have no reason to believe you were acting dishonestly at the time of "crime".
Just because you're an honest person doesn't mean you'll never find yourself in a situation where you've taken a cab ride and can't pay the fare. Should this happen to you, never try to pull a taxi-style dine-and-dash. Instead, remain honest and calm, and follow the advice outlined above.
For more advice on different situations you might find yourself in when using taxis, contact a local cab company like White Top Cab Company.