There have been numerous cases around the country of people stepping into what they believe to be their Uber or Lyft, only to discover their driver does not work for a rideshare service at all.
“Outside crowded areas like airports, bars or clubs, it’s easy for predators to pretend to be drivers for rideshare companies and to deceive innocent people,” said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen). “As ridesharing becomes more commonplace, we must ensure we hold these offenders accountable under the law.”
Johnson and Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin and Robert Karabinchak have sponsored legislation (A-745) to criminalize fraudulently pretending to be a transportation network company (TNC) driver. The measure passed the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee on Monday.
Last year, 21-year-old Robbinsville resident Samantha “Sami” Josephson, a student at the University of South Carolina, was killed by a man she had mistaken to be her rideshare driver.
“Someone who poses as a rideshare driver often has dangerous motives,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Just a short time ago, we saw a young woman from New Jersey tragically lose her life after getting into a car that she believed to be her Uber. Our hearts broke for her family. We need to ensure justice is brought to victims and their loved ones, starting with criminalizing this awful practice.”
Under the measure, it would be a crime of the fourth degree if a person falsely pretended to be a TNC driver to benefit himself or another, or to injure or defraud another. Fourth degree crimes are punishable by up to 18 months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
Additionally, if a person knowingly exhibits or displays a falsely purported identifying marker or some other identification, it would be a crime of the third degree carrying a penalty of three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
“Rideshare companies have changed the way people get from place to place. However, as our methods of transportation evolves, our laws must change with it to ensure perpetrators are held accountable,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “By criminalizing the act of pretending to be a rideshare driver, we are sending a clear message and this kind of abuse will not be tolerated in New Jersey.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.