A new law set to take effect January 1 means ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft will soon know much more about their drivers' past deeds — and allows for serious fines should employers allow drivers convicted of certain crimes to use their platforms. CBS 5 reports that the California law permits ride-hail companies to conduct background checks that cover the entire life of a potential driver — as opposed to the current seven-year limit.
The law comes just as several incidents of Uber drivers kidnapping passengers have made the news, and is sure to spur a flurry of in-depth background checks. Uber officials argued that individuals with convictions for violent crimes have previously gotten past background checks because the convictions occurred more than seven years ago. "We are currently limited in state law to our background check to the seven year lookback," Uber spokesperson Will Gonzalez informed the State Assembly. "So we have had these instances where someone with a serious offense further back were on the platform, so with this bill we can look back for a lifetime.”
Starting Sunday, Uber will no longer have that excuse. To force Uber and Lyft to actually run the extended background checks, the law allows for fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for every driver on a public sex offender database or who has been convicted of a violent crime. This likely will mean that at least several individuals currently behind the wheel will get booted off their respective ride-hail platform in 2017.
The ACLU, meanwhile, argues that the stricter rules will have a negative net impact on society. "[Old] convictions can appear on these records, for which people have long served their time and been rehabilitated," ACLU spokeswoman Maya Ingram argued to the State Assembly. "It is important that we continue to provide re-entry opportunities for people following a conviction.”
Uber, for its part, is probably pleased at its newfound ability to dig up information on its contractors. After all, anything that helps to make the time before human drivers are replaced by self-driving cars go without violent incident can only help business.