Bill would ban sex offenders from driving for Uber, Lyft

by Chris Nichols | July 15, 2015 6:00 am

uber[1]The next time you grab a ride with Uber or Lyft, a California lawmaker wants to make sure a registered sex offender isn’t behind the wheel — something the ride-hailing companies say they already go the extra-mile to prevent.

Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, recently introduced a bill that would ban ride-hailing companies from using any driver who is required by law to register as a sex offender.

Lyft, Uber and other smartphone-based ride-hailing companies already use private background checks on potential drivers. But there’s no California law explicitly banning sex offenders from driving for the companies.

“At a minimum, registered sex offenders should not be a part of this industry,” said Trent Hager, Galgiani’s chief of staff, told on Tuesday.

Reports of alleged assaults by ride-hailing drivers on their passengers have surfaced in recent years. Galgiani’s bill was not sparked by any such incident in California, but instead seeks to prevent one from happening, Hager said.

In a written statement, a spokesman for Uber said the company’s “policy already prohibits publicly registered sex offenders from partnering with Uber as drivers on the platform.”

The company added that all Uber drivers “are required to undergo an extensive background check, which is performed on our behalf by Accurate and/or Checkr. Both are accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.”

On its website, Lyft states “We also do not allow individuals to drive who are registered on the National Sex Offender Registry and DOJ50-State Sex Offender Registry at the time our background check is conducted, regardless of how long ago the individual was put on that registry.”

The industry’s growing popularity has exposed it to extra scrutiny in California, where state officials say ride-hailing firms should be regulated like taxi companies.

In the taxi industry, driver applicants must pass criminal background checks administered by local agencies, including police and sheriff departments.

Rick Wright, of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s licensing division, which performs background checks on taxi driver applicants in the San Diego region, said being a registered sex offender would disqualify a potential taxi driver.

Galgiani’s bill was introduced July 8 as a “gut-and-amend” replacing a bill she previously introduced on an unrelated topic.

It is expected to be heard in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee in August, after lawmakers return from a summer recess.

To become law, it must be approved by the Senate, Assembly and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Contact reporter Chris Nichols at [email protected][2].
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