When ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft start in upstate New York in July, will registered sex offenders be allowed behind the wheel?
Republicans in the State Senate have introduced a bill that would prohibit all sex offenders from driving for the ride-hailing companies.
State Sen. Thomas D. Croci, R-Long Island, said that when lawmakers passed legislation this year allowing the companies to operate upstate, they left a loophole allowing some who are on New York's Sex Offender Registry to drive for the companies. Lower-level sex offenders can become drivers seven years after their prison release
"Allowing anyone who appears on the New York State Sex Offender Registry to be drivers for ride-share companies presents an unacceptable risk to our citizens," Croci said in a statement.
Is Croci right? Can some sex offenders drive for Uber and Lyft?
What’s in the law?
Lawmakers in April added a new section to the state Vehicle and Traffic Law allowing ride-hailing companies to operate outside of New York City.
The legislation outlines who can drive for those companies and what type of auto insurance they must carry.
The law requires ride-hailing companies to perform a background check on prospective drivers. They have to check New York’s Sex Offender Registry and the National Sex Offender Public Registry.
Those who are on the national registry are barred from ever driving for ride-hailing companies. But not all registered sex offenders are on it. New York state recognizes three levels of sex offenders, based on their risk of committing another sex crime. Those categorized as Level 1 pose the lowest risk. Level 2 and Level 3 offenders pose moderate and high risks, respectively.
New York state’s Level 2 and Level 3 offenders are listed on the national registry, and they remain on it for life. So they will never be able to drive for the companies.
The waiting period
New York state's Level 1 offenders are not on the national registry. And, state law does not allow information about Level 1 sex offenders to be posted online. Federal agencies have access to the information but state law blocks it from being posted on the national registry.
That does not mean all Level 1 sex offenders can drive for the ride-hailing companies. Level 1 offenders must wait seven years after their release from jail or prison before they are allowed to drive. If the offenders are not incarcerated, the seven-year waiting period starts when they are convicted, according to state law.
It is not just sex offenders who can eventually drive for ride-hailing companies.Several other crimes have a waiting period to drive for Uber or Lyft, according to the law. Someone convicted of manslaughter or a burglary would be eligible to drive for Uber or Lyft seven years after their conviction or release. A misdemeanor offense of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs has a three-year waiting period.
Croci, a state senator from Long Island, said that in some cases a sex offender "who appears on the New York State Sex Offender Registry" would be able to drive for Uber or Lyft.
Level 1 sex offenders are not listed on the national sex offender registry, and would therefore be allowed to drive for ride-hailing companies seven years after they are released from prison or, if they were not incarcerated, after their conviction.
Croci’s statement is True.