Case Summary: Traffic Commissioner’s acquittal of an Uber driver for operating a business without a licence was overturned
Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Traffic Commissioner – Investigations; Municipalities – By-laws – Taxis – Permits and licences – Evidence
The Court of Queen’s Bench allowed an appeal of an Uber driver’s acquittal in respect of two municipal bylaw offences. The Traffic Commissioner had acquitted the driver on the basis that he had not physically accepted the cash during a sting operation, meaning a true transaction did not take place and there was insufficient evidence to prove the charges. The court said the Commissioner incorrectly focused his decision on the success of the particular transaction, and not the essential elements of the charges. As a result, the court allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial.
 A.J. No. 1437
2015 ABQB 827
December 23, 2015
D.L. Shelley J.
The Crown successfully appealed the Traffic Commissioner’s acquittal of Mr. Sandhu, an Uber driver in Edmonton. Mr. Sandhu had been charged by a bylaw officer with violating two municipal bylaws: operating a business without a licence and operating a vehicle for hire without a taxi plate. The charges arose in connection with a City investigation into suspected Uber drivers. The municipal enforcement officer in charge of the investigation arranged a sting operation, and had a colleague approach Mr. Sandhu to ask whether he was an Uber driver and whether he could bring her to a specified location in exchange for $25 cash. Mr. Sandhu said he would accept the cash and take her to the destination, but had not actually physically accepted the money before the enforcement officer arrived to charge Mr. Sandhu with the bylaw offences.
At trial, the Commissioner said if Mr. Sandhu had physically accepted the cash, there would be no doubt as to his guilt of the two charges. However, the Commissioner concluded that an actual transaction did not take place given that Mr. Sandhu did not actually take the cash. As such, there was reasonable doubt as to whether he was carrying on or engaging in a business or operating a vehicle for hire on that particular occasion, and he was acquitted.
On appeal, the court ruled that proof of a transaction was sufficient but not necessary to prove Mr. Sandhu was operating a business or vehicle for hire. The Commissioner incorrectly focused his decision on the success of the particular transaction itself and not the essential elements of the charges. As the Crown submitted, Mr. Sandhu’s uncontroverted admissions that he was an Uber driver and had been waiting for a call at the time of the sting operation were sufficient to establish that he was operating a business and a vehicle for hire at the time in question. The court concluded that had the Commissioner focused on the evidence as a whole to determine whether Mr. Sandhu was operating a vehicle for hire business, and not on the particular transaction, it is reasonably certain that that evidence would have had a bearing on the outcome of the case. As a result, the court allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial.
This case was digested by Kara Hill of Harper Grey LLP. If you would like to discuss this case further, please feel free to contact her directly at email@example.com or review her biography at http://www.harpergrey.com.