California Governor signs Uber, Lyft background check bill into law - no fingerprint requirement

by Sean Riley


SiliconValley

Uber and Lyft will have to start conducting stricter driver background checks next year under a new law signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Ride-hailing companies in California will have to bar any potential driver who has ever been convicted of a violent felony or a terrorism-related offense, or is a registered sex offender. Under current law, the companies only have to go back seven years when looking for criminal convictions.

The new law also prohibits companies from signing on drivers who in the past seven years have been convicted of misdemeanor assault or battery, domestic violence or driving under the influence.

The bill, AB 1298, passed in the legislature last month, on the last full day of the session, as The Mercury News previously reported. It was backed by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove.

“As a father of four daughters, I don’t want my children being picked up by a driver convicted of murder or rape,” he wrote in a news release when the bill passed.

Ride-hailing companies that violate the new law are subject to fines of $1,000 to $5,000 and up to three months of jail time.

The new law comes as Uber and Lyft are under fire over claims that they don’t do enough to protect the safety of their passengers. Multiple women have sued the companies claiming they were sexually assaulted by their drivers, and an Uber driver was charged earlier this year in a mass shooting in Michigan. Critics have demanded Uber and Lyft put their drivers through government fingerprint background checks, which the companies are against and have successfully avoided in most states so far. Now the ride-hailing startups conduct driver background checks, without fingerprints, using private companies.

The new law avoids the controversial fingerprint issue altogether — a win for Uber and Lyft.