VERIFY: Sex offender Uber/Lyft drivers?

2 On Your Side's Michael Wooten verifies the claim that some sex offenders could be hired in the coming months as drivers for Uber or Lyft.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Several state lawmakers, including Senator Chris Jacobs of Western New York, are pushing a bill that would prohibit anyone on the New York State Sex Offender Registry from getting the permit needed to drive for a ride-sharing company.

2 On Your Side set out to VERIFY the story.

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft were legalized as part of the recently-passed state budget. The law as currently written forbids Level 2 and Level 3 offenders from getting permits. As for Level 1 offenders -- who were deemed by the courts to present the lowest risk to the public -- only those convicted within the past 7 years cannot get permits.

Laura Ahearn, executive director with Parents For Megan's Law, reached out to State Senator Tom Croci, who represents part of Long Island, with her concerns about this "loophole".

Senator Croci co-wrote a bill that would change the rules so that no sex offender could get a ride-sharing permit as long as his or her name was still on the registry.

"Level 1 offenders are deemed to have a risk or re-offense and therefore pose a risk to public safety," Ahearn said.

But 2 On Your Side legal analyst Barry Covert pointed out there's nothing in state law to prevent some low-level sex offenders from getting similar jobs, like driving for taxi companies or even school buses.

There is a specific list of crimes that if committed by a person would disqualify him or her from driving school buses. There are instances in which you could be on the sex offender registry and yet still eligible to drive a bus.

Likewise, someone could be a Level 1 sex offender and still drive a taxi in the City of Buffalo.

Patrick Sole heads up the department that handles taxi licensing. He said the City looks through a person's criminal background check, among other requirements, and makes a final determination ont that person's "moral character" and ability to handle the job.

There is no law or regulation that denies access to all sex offenders.

"It does leave discretion to the City," Sole said.

An Uber spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

 

VERIFY SOURCES:

  • Patrick Sole, City of Buffalo Director of Permit and Inspection Services
  • Barry Covert, Criminal Defense Attorney & 2 On Your Side Legal Analyst
  • State Senator Tom Croci, (R) Long Island
  • Laura Ahearn, Executive Director of Parents For Megan's Law

 

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