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  • Interpretation
  • No.749【Disqualification of Taxi Drivers from Professional Practice for a Fixed Period of Time and Revocation of Their Driving Licenses】
  • Date
  • 2017/06/02
  • Issue
    • Are the provisions in the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act that disqualify a taxi driver who was convicted of certain crimes during the time period for professional practice for a fixed period of three years and that revoke all categories of driving license held unconstitutional?
  • Holding
    •        The Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act (hereinafter “the Act”) in Article 37, Paragraph 3 provides: “Where a taxi driver, during the time period for professional practice, is sentenced by the judgment of a court of first instance to punishment of imprisonment or a more severe punishment for committing a crime involving larceny, fraud, receiving stolen property, offenses against freedoms, or any of the crimes specified in Articles 230 to 236 of the Criminal Code, his/her professional practice registration certificate shall be suspended. Where the said sentencing judgment of punishment of imprisonment or a more severe punishment is finalized, the said professional practice registration of the taxi driver in question shall be nullified and his/her driver’s license shall be revoked.”  This provision imposes consequences of suspension of a taxi driver’s professional practice registration certificate or nullification of his/her professional practice registration by citing the conviction for certain crimes and a court-imposed sentence of punishment more severe than imprisonment as the sole criteria for disqualification, without taking into account whether the committal of crimes by the taxi driver is such as to sufficiently indicate that the continuation of his/her professional practice constitutes a substantial risk to the safety of the passengers. For the above reason, the said provision’s restriction on a taxi driver’s right to work exceeds the extent of necessity, and thus is not consistent with the principle of proportionality enshrined in Article 23 of the Constitution, and is also in violation of the right to work protected by Article 15 of the Constitution. The authorities concerned shall amend the said provision as appropriate, in accordance with the ruling of this Interpretation, within two years from the announcement of this Interpretation. Where the authorities concerned fail to amend the provision within the said two years, the parts of the provision in relation to the suspension of professional practice registration certificate and to the nullification of professional practice registration shall become null and void. Before the amendment of the said provision is made, a taxi driver whose professional practice registration is nullified may not re-apply for such registration within three years from the day of the nullification, so that the legislative purpose to deprive offending taxi drivers of their professional practice for a fixed period of time may be maintained.
      
    •        That part of Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act in relation to the revocation of the driver’s license, which clearly exceeds extent that is necessary for achieving the purpose to deprive offending taxi drivers of their professional practice for a fixed period of time, is not consistent with the principle of proportionality enshrined in Article 23 of the Constitution, and is also in violation of the right to work protected by Article 15 and the general freedoms protected by Article 22 of the Constitution, and thus shall become null and void from the day of the announcement of this Interpretation. As a result, that part of Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act in question shall not be applied as a ground in support of the application of Article 68, Paragraph 1 of the Act (prior to amendment of May 5, 2000, Article 68 of the Act) in revoking the various classes of driver’s licenses held by a taxi driver.
      
    •        Article 67, Paragraph 2 of the Act, which reads in relevant parts: “A driver whose … driver’s license has been revoked in accordance with … Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act … may not apply to attend tests for acquiring a driver’s license” shall become null and void along with Article 37, Paragraph 3, for reasons that that part of Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act in relation to the revocation of the driver’s license is declared null and void by this Interpretation, as seen above.
  • Reasoning
    •        Petitioners Wan-Jin WANG, Yao-Hua LI, Rong-Yao LI, Chih-Chien CHEN (original name: Te-Hao CHEN), Ching-You YEH, and Hua-Tsung HSU are all taxi drivers who have been respectively sentenced by final court judgments to punishments of imprisonment or a more severe punishment for committing crimes specified in Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act, and subsequently have had their respective professional practice registration nullified and their respective driver’s licenses revoked by the competent authorities. The petitioners separately initiated complaints against the said nullification and revocation, which were maintained by final court judgments. The Petitioners filed petitions to this Court, claiming that Article 37, Paragraph 3, Article 67, Paragraph 2, and Article 68 of the Act as variously applied in their respective Final Judgments (whose judgment numbers, subject matter, as well as target provisions of the petitions for constitutional interpretation are seen in the Table annexed to this Interpretation below) are not consistent with Articles 7, 15, 22, and 23 of the Constitution. This Court considered that the petitions in question satisfied the requirements of Article 5, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 2 of the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act and accordingly granted review. 
      
    •        Other Petitioners in this case include judge in Subdivision Ching, Administrative Litigation Division, Taiwan Taipei District Court while reviewing Traffic Case No. 202 (2013) and Traffic Case No. 11 (2014) therein, and judge in Subdivision Jou, Administrative Litigation Division, Taiwan Taoyuan District Court while reviewing Traffic Case No. 349 (2015) therein, who came to the conviction that Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act applicable in the cases before them may contravene the Constitution, and thus suspended the proceedings by ruling and petitioned this Court for a constitutional interpretation. This Court considered that the petitions satisfied the requirements of petition for constitutional interpretation by judges laid down in J.Y. Interpretation Nos. 371, 572, and 590 of this Court and accordingly granted review.
      
    •        Given that the above petitions raised common issues concerning the constitutionality of Article 37, Paragraph 3, Article 67, Paragraph 2, and Article 68 of the Act, the Court joined the above petitions and makes this Interpretation. The reasoning is as follows:
      
    •        1. Issues relating to suspension of professional practice registration certificate and nullification of professional practice registration in Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act
      
    •        Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act reads: “Where a taxi driver, during the time period for professional practice, is sentenced by the judgment of a court of first instance to punishment of imprisonment or a more severe punishment for committing a crime involving larceny, fraud, receiving stolen property, offenses against freedoms, or any of the crimes specified in Articles 230 to 236 of the Criminal Code, his/her professional practice registration certificate shall be suspended. Where the said sentencing judgment of punishment of imprisonment or a more severe punishment is finalized, the said professional practice registration of the taxi driver in question shall be nullified and his/her driver’s license shall be revoked (hereinafter “Disputed Provision 1”). The legal consequences of suspension of professional practice registration certificate and nullification of professional practice registration so provided may constitute a restriction on a taxi driver’s freedom in selecting his/her occupation.
      
    •        Article 15 of the Constitution protects the right to work, which incorporates the freedom in selecting one’s occupation. Where the right to work incorporating the freedom in selecting one’s occupation bears close relation with public interest, the state may impose restrictions on those rights and freedoms by stipulating qualifications and other requirements necessary for practicing certain occupations in legislation or ordinances specifically authorized by legislation in a manner that is consistent with Article 23 of the Constitution, as the Court has delineated in Interpretation Nos. 404, 510, and 584. As a matter of constitutional law, the restrictions on occupational freedom may well be of a variety of degrees of stringency, depending on the nature of the subject-matter concerned. When it comes to the subjective conditions required of a person in choosing his/her occupation, such as those relating to one’s intellect, physical capacity, or record of previous convictions, the legislative restrictions, if imposed, must aim at furthering an important public interest by means that are substantially related to that interest, in order for them to meet the requirements of the principle of proportionality.
      
    •        Taxis are an important means of transport for the general public. As such, the occupation of taxi-driving bears a close relation to passengers’ safety and the maintenance of good order. Whereas cases involving crimes conducted by taxi drivers while providing their service have happened from time to time, surveys show that those who were involved include persons who had been previously convicted, primarily of crimes such as larceny, fraud, receiving stolen property, and offenses against freedoms. Some of the cases, for being viewed as having the potential to impose serious threat to passengers’ safety and social order, aroused grave social concerns while becoming the focal point of public outcry. Further, the mobility of taxi-driving was considered an inherent feature that carried the potential of facilitating the committal of crimes using the taxi as a vehicle, considering in particular the more frequent exposure a taxi driver had to female passengers travelling alone or to passengers carrying large sums of money or property, and the possibility of controlling the passenger’s movement within the taxi. For all these reasons, upon the amendment of Disputed Provision 1 on July 29, 1981, the legal consequence of revocation of professional practice registration certificate of a taxi was specifically provided (subsequently modified to be suspension of professional practice registration certificate and nullification of professional practice registration) so as to prevent the committal of crimes using taxis as vehicles, as well as to safeguard passengers’ safety (see Legislative Yuan: Official Gazette Volume 70, Proceedings of the 55th Session, p. 43-44).
      
    •        The operating pattern of taxis in Taiwan is primarily “roaming and picking”, in which a passenger hails a taxi randomly on the roadside and often does not have the chance to screen the driver or acquire information about the standard of service each driver provides beforehand. Further, once in the taxi, the passenger will find himself/herself in a confined and small space, in which the driver has a relatively dominant place. Based on the above considerations, Disputed Provision 1 imposes certain restrictions as to the subjective qualifications of a person who intends to serve as a taxi driver, in order to protect the safety of passengers and to maintain good order, which are important public interest and thus legitimate purposes the protection of which is constitutional.
      
    •        Notwithstanding the above finding that Disputed Provision 1, by imposing restrictions on the subjective qualifications of a taxi driver which deprives him/her of the qualification from exercising his/her profession based on a court conviction for a certain category of crimes and sentencing according to a certain category of punishment, may be considered conducive to the achievement of the above-mentioned purposes, the said qualification restriction shall be limited to an extent excluding only those drivers whose continuing exercise of profession constitutes a substantial risk to the safety of passengers. Only when limited to that extent can such a restriction be said to have chosen a means that is substantially related to the achievement of the said purposes.
      
    •        In light that the crimes committed by taxi drivers were primarily those involving larceny, fraud, receiving stolen property, and offenses against freedoms, on July 29, 1981, the competent authorities proposed the addition of Draft Article 37-1, Paragraph 3, as an amendment to the Act (the amended article was renumbered Article 37 along with other amendments of the Act as a whole on May 21, 1986, see Proceedings of the 55th Session, Volume 70 of the Official Gazette of the Legislative Yuan, at pages 43-44), which added crimes involving larceny, fraud, receiving stolen property, and offenses against freedoms to the grounds for depriving drivers of their qualification to drive a taxi. Further, to enhance protection of female passengers, crimes specified in Articles 230 to 236 of the Criminal Code - i.e. those involving offenses against morality - were added to Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act, and this amendment was promulgated on January 22, 1997 and came into effect on March 1, 1997 (which was later incorporated into Disputed Provision 1 in its present form with the same grounds for restriction on December 28, 2005, see Proceedings of the 2nd Session, Volume 86 of the Official Gazette of the Legislative Yuan, at pages 142-144). These amendments could not be said to be without reason given the circumstances when they were made. However, while the grounds of disqualification listed in Disputed Provision 1 are criminal offenses clustered in chapters of the Criminal Code, for example those relating to property crimes (e.g., larceny, fraud, and receiving stolen property), those against freedom (e.g., offenses covered in Articles 296 to 308 of the Criminal Code), and those against morality (e.g., offenses covered in Articles 230 to 236 of the Criminal Code), offenses in the same chapter differ in the nature of danger they impose and in the degree of their infringement of legal interest. Further, some of the offenses listed as grounds of disqualification cannot be said to bear a direct relation to the safety of passengers, (such as unlawful occupation of real estate in Article 320, Paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code, taking the property of another from a fee-collecting apparatus in Article 339-1 of the Criminal Code, and unlawful search in Article 307 of the Criminal Code). Still further, according to statistics or research, both in the preparatory work before the Legislative Yuan at the time of the relevant amendments and supplied by the competent authorities up to the present time, there are not sufficient grounds to conclude that persons who were convicted of crimes listed in Disputed Provision 1 are highly likely to commit those crimes again relying on the convenience offered by practicing taxi-driving, thus imposing substantial risks to the safety of passengers.
      
    •        Moreover, even though a taxi driver is convicted of the crimes listed and is sentenced to punishment of imprisonment or a more sever punishment, the actual sentence he/she receives might be limited to a short period, or sometimes he/she is even put on probation, following the court’s consideration of the intention for the commission of the crime, the driver’s attitude after the commission of crime, and other relevant circumstances. In those cases, whether the taxi driver concerned indeed imposes a substantial risk to the safety of passengers so as to be subject to disqualification from his/her professional practice to the same degree of severity is a question worth close scrutiny. In this connection, Disputed Provision 1 imposes consequences of suspension of a taxi driver’s professional practice registration certificate or nullification of his/her professional practice registration by listing the conviction for certain crimes and a court-imposed sentence being more severe than imprisonment as the sole criteria for disqualification, without taking into account whether the committal of crimes by the taxi driver is such as to sufficiently indicate that the continuation of his/her professional practice constitutes a substantial risk to the safety of passengers. For the above reason, the restriction in Disputed Provision 1 of a taxi driver’s right to work exceeds the extent of necessity. 
      
    •        In sum, the parts of Disputed Provision 1 concerning the suspension of a taxi driver’s professional practice registration certificate and the nullification of his/her professional practice registration are not consistent with the principle of proportionality enshrined in Article 23 of the Constitution, and are also in violation of the right to work protected by Article 15 of the Constitution. The authorities concerned shall amend the said provision as appropriate, in accordance with the ruling of this Interpretation, within two years from the announcement of this Interpretation. Where the authorities concerned fail to amend the provision within the said two years, the parts of Disputed Provision 1 in relation to the suspension of professional practice registration certificate and to the nullification of professional practice registration shall become null and void.
      
    •        2. Issues relating to revocation of driver’s license in Disputed Provision 1 and in Article 67, Paragraph 2 and Article 68 of the Act in Disputed Provision 1
      
    •        Pursuant to Article 2 of the Regulations Governing the Management of the Professional Practice Registration of Taxi Drivers, a driver who drives a taxi for his/her profession-driving as the business practice shall, prior to conducting the practice, apply for professional practice registration from the police authorities in the municipalities, counties, or cities where he/she intends to conduct professional practice. Only after acquiring the certificate and its copies of the said professional practice registration may the said person carries out the professional practice of taxi-driving. In this light, nullification of professional practice registration, which will deprive a taxi driver of his/her professional practice, is thus sufficient for fulfilling the legislative purpose of protecting the safety of passengers. The parts in Disputed Provision 1 in relation to revocation of driver’s license, apart from depriving a driver of his/her right to work, further deprive a person of the freedom to drive a car, and as such, manifestly exceed the extent necessary for achieving the legislative purposes, and thus are not consistent with the principle of proportionality enshrined in Article 23 of the Constitution, and are also in violation of the right to work protected by Article 15 and the general freedoms protected by Article 22 of the Constitution, and thus shall become null and void from the day of the announcement of this Interpretation. As a result, the relevant part in Disputed Provision 1 shall not be applied as a ground in support of the application of Article 68, Paragraph 1 of the Act (prior to amendment on May 5, 2000, Article 68 of the Act), which provides: “Where a driver is subject to revocation of his/her driver’s license as a result of violating provisions of this Act or of the Road Traffic Safety Regulations, all classes of his/her driver’s licenses shall be revoked as well”, in revoking the various classes of driver’s licenses held by a taxi driver.
      
    •        Article 67, Paragraph 2 of the Act, which reads in relevant parts: “A driver whose … driver’s license has been revoked in accordance with … Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the Act … may not apply to attend tests for acquiring a driver’s license.” (hereinafter “Disputed Provision 2”), for reasons that the part in Disputed Provision 1 in relation to the revocation of driver’s license is declared null and void by this Interpretation as seen above, and shall become null and void along with Disputed Provision 1.
      
    •        In accordance with this Interpretation, a taxi driver whose professional practice registration has been nullified in accordance with Disputed Provision 1, may, from the day of the announcement of this Interpretation until the authorities concerned amend Disputed Provision 1 in accordance with the ruling of this Interpretation, continue to hold his/her professional driver’s license. A taxi driver whose driver’s license has been revoked in accordance with Disputed Provision 1 even prior to the announcement of this Interpretation, may immediately apply to attend tests for acquiring a driver’s license. However, Article 3 of the Regulations Governing the Management of the Professional Practice Registration of Taxi Drivers reads in relevant parts: “A driver may apply for professional practice registration only when he/she holds a professional driver’s license and when there are no prohibitive circumstances provided in Article 36, Paragraph 4 or Article 37, Paragraph 1 of the Act against him/her.” If the aforesaid taxi driver may hold his/her professional driver’s license, either already held or newly issued, and be allowed to apply for professional practice registration, the purpose of Disputed Provision 2 which is to prevent the taxi driver from conducting his/her professional practice for a fixed period of three years will be defeated. In this light, to uphold the intent of depriving a taxi driver from conducting his/her professional practice for a fixed period, a taxi driver whose professional practice registration has been nullified prior to the amendment to the relevant law and regulations may not apply for practice registration within three years from the day of the said nullification. 
      
    •        3. Issues on which petitions for constitutional interpretation are not granted
      
    •        Whereas the petition made by Rong-Yao LI in relation to uniform interpretation does not concern itself with alleging that, in relation to identical applicable laws or ordinances, different opinions are adopted by the final decisions of the courts in different systems (e.g., between decisions of the Supreme Court and decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court), the petition is not made in accordance with Article 7, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 2 of Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act, and thus shall be dismissed in accordance with Article 7, Paragraph 3 of the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act.
      
    •        Whereas in the petition made by Hua-Tsung HSU against provisions of the Regulations on Adding Addresses of Residence or Work Place to Vehicle Registration in the Computer Database of the Highway Supervisory Agency applied in Rulings in Traffic-Appeal Case No. 3 (2014) and Traffic-Appeal-Retrial Case No. 3 (2014) of the Taipei High Administrative Court, alleging infringements of his constitutional rights resulting from relevant administrative documents being sent to his household registration address instead of the address of his habitual residence such that the persons to whom the administrative disposition was made did not have the opportunity to be informed of the content of the administrative disposition concerned nor did they have an opportunity to object to it, the petitioner did not specify the grounds of unconstitutionality in the disputed provisions in the said Regulations. As such, the petition is not made in accordance with Article 5, Paragraph 1 , Subparagraph 2 of the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act, and thus shall be also dismissed in accordance with Article 5, Paragraph 3 of the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act.
      
    • ______________________
      
    • * Translated by Chen-En SUNG.
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