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Rideshare drivers have to put up with quite a bit of nonsense from riders, but one thing they don't have to put up with is a beat down. No matter how bad your Uber or Lyft driver messes up the route to your favorite mojito serving Scandinavian Jazz bistro, you can't hit them. As a former Taco Bell executive can attest to, attacking a rideshare driver can have far reaching consequences, including civil and criminal charges, as well as public humiliation and getting fired.
While riders that attack their drivers might not have their entire lives unravel like a wet, poorly rolled soft-taco, they can face criminal penalties just like an assault on any other person (FYI: the legal term for a physical attack on someone is actually "battery" not "assault"). Like many other crimes, assault (and/or battery) charges usually have varying degrees which differ depending on each state's criminal laws. And like all criminal charges, even a little misdemeanor can have far reaching consequences.
Bad Bad Bachman
T.J. Miller, better known as HBO's Silicon Valley's Erlich Bachman, was recently arrested and immediately released for attacking a car service driver. The driver called the police after the attack and insisted that Miller be arrested. The police investigated the incident, arrested Miller, charged him with a misdemeanor, and then released him.
Generally, depending on the severity of the assault, law enforcement has some discretion on how to handle the situation. Had Miller caused the driver serious injuries, rather than just annoyance or some bumps and bruises, it is likely he would not have been so quickly cited and released.
Special Penalties Like Taxi/Bus Driver Assault Laws?
While assaulting a rideshare driver can get you charged with an assault and battery, there are situations that can make the charges much worse. A recent incident in Nebraska illustrates how the motive for an attack matters. Because the attacker was insulting the driver's ethnicity, he is being charged with a hate crime, which increases the severity of the penalties.
Most localities have special laws that make an assault on a taxi, bus, or other public transportation, driver a more serious crime than a standard assault. However, because of the relative newness of ridesharing services, these laws may not cover ride share drivers.