Speedway police improperly seized the licenses of as many as 80 cab drivers on the day of the Indianapolis 500 and later charged them $50 each for their return, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the town.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and attorneys representing three cab drivers filed the suit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The suit seeks class-action status to include all drivers affected by the officers’ alleged actions.
The lawsuit, which contends that officers violated the cabbies’ constitutional rights, seeks a jury trial and damages for the plaintiffs’ missed work time.
"The Constitution prohibits the government from seizing our property without cause and without any sort of process,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, in a prepared release. “Both of these principles appeared to have been violated in this case."
The suit contends that as many as 80 cab drivers had their licenses seized on May 26. The plaintiffs allege that they had driven clients to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and agreed to return for them later.
When they did return to the pick-up spots, Speedway police officers seized their operators' licenses and told them to leave the area, the suit says. When the drivers went to the Speedway Police Department to pick up their licenses, they were penalized with parking tickets costing $50.
The suit claims that the actions of the police department violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, because seizure of the licenses was not warranted, justified or reasonable, and violated due process.
Trent Theobald, public information officer for the Speedway Police Department, said Monday afternoon that the town had not yet received the suit, and thus could not comment.
Adam Baker, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement, which issues city taxi licenses, Speedway officers do not have authority to seize cab licenses, which can only be revoked by the City of Indianapolis. Baker said there had been a misunderstanding between officers from Indianapolis, who were allowing cabs to turn on a street near thye IMS, and the officers from Speedway, who were not.
Baker said officials from Indianapolis and Speedway will make sure the taxi drop-off and pickup area is clearly designated before NASCAR's Brickyard 400 race on July 28.
"It won't happen again," Baker said.