Uber Will Allow Drivers Whose Felonies Have Been Reduced to Misdemeanors

SAN FRANCISCO (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

Almost anyone can drive for Uber: actors, musicians, retirees, stay-at-home moms. One group that has never been allowed on the platform are people who have been convicted of felonies.

That could soon change.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco company is expected to announce an initiative that could help clear the path for convicted felons whose crimes are reduced to misdemeanors to drive for the ridesharing platform.

The move could mean a sizable number of new drivers for Uber, a boon at a time when it is rapidly scaling up to meet huge demand and needs as many people behind the wheel as it can get. But it’s also a potential publicity headache for a company that has faced accusations of lax driver screening and reports of unsafe or inappropriate driver behavior.

Under Uber’s long-standing safety policies, drivers who have committed felonies are automatically disqualified from driving for the on-demand transportation company. But its background check process also rules out drivers who may qualify to drive under Proposition 47, a California ballot measure passed in 2014 that reclassifies certain felonies as misdemeanors.

Crimes that can be reclassified include personal use of illegal substances, shoplifting, writing a bad check and receiving stolen property for which the value does not exceed $950.

The company said it will begin proactively notifying disqualified drivers about Proposition 47 so that if they choose, they can apply to have their cases reconsidered by the court.

It will also refer applicants to Defy Ventures, an organization that offers employment training to people with criminal records. If the petition is successful and a person’s criminal record is scrubbed of felonies, he or she could be approved to drive for Uber.