Finding a well-paying job is difficult for felons. The job market is already tough enough without ex-cons. So trying to beat out the competition when you have a criminal record places one at a disadvantage.
The transportation sector has been a big help to felons. There is a strong demand for drivers and the training is short and affordable. In some cases, transport firms will even sponsor training.
In New York City, one of the biggest segments of transport is the taxi business. So, can a felon get a TLC license? Let’s find an answer.
To drive one of the many ubiquitous yellow cabs in New York, one must have a TLC license. The New York City Taxi and Limousine commission oversees the licensing of vehicles and drivers that transport passengers.
Having this license is what allows a driver to be able to operate a taxi within the city.
A key benefit of operating a taxi in New York is that there is a cap on the numbers. Through the medallion system, the city has been able to limit the number of yellow cab drivers. This gives those with valid licenses a fairer chance at making a meaningful living from their job.
The market has grown tougher in recent years thanks to ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. However, yellow cabs are still very much a staple. In fact, to drive an Uber in New York, one must have a TLC license.
So let’s delve into what getting a TLC license entails.
How to Get A TLC License?
There are different ways in which you may transport passengers. It could be in a yellow cab, an Uber, a Limo, and more. Whichever option you choose, you will need a TLC license.
To apply for a TLC license, you will need to meet these prerequisites:
- Be a minimum of 19 years of age
- Have a valid Class A, B, C, or E Chauffer’s license
- No more than 5 points on your license going back 15 months from the date of your last violation
- Have a valid social security number
- No outstanding fines or fees owed to the DMV or TLC
If you meet the above criteria, then you can move on to make your application. There are several steps to be covered when making an application. They must all be completed within 90 days of the application or it will be denied.
- Visit LARS to make your application online.
- Complete a DMV certified Defensive Driving Course
- Complete Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) Training
- Undertake the 24-hour Driver’s Education course and pass the test with a score of 70% or higher
- Watch Sex Trafficking Awareness Training Video
- Pay off all outstanding parking and traffic tickets.
- Take a Drug Test
- Undertake a TLC medical exam
- Have fingerprints and photo taken
- Upload all required documents
Once you have submitted everything a background check is conducted. If it comes back clean you should be approved. Your license will then be sent to you via mail within a few weeks.
From here you merely need to have access to a qualifying vehicle that you will use as a taxi, limo, or rideshare.
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Obtaining A License for A Vehicle
When licensing vehicles, TLC requires that they be no more than 7 years old. The driver will also need to obtain a base letter from a taxicab or rideshare company.
Commercial vehicle insurance is required. It will need to include no-fault coverage, bodily injury, and property damage liability. You should have a copy of the cover.
You then submit this documentation with your TLC vehicle license application, online or in person. If successful, the TLC will issue you a plate letter.
When you take the plate letter to the DMV, you will then be issued with your official TLC license plates. You will then need to have your vehicle inspected before you can finally go out and start picking fares.
Some drivers may have their TLC license but lack funds to buy a suitable car. The next best option would be to find a taxicab company that leases its vehicles. Most charge the drivers a fee based on the number of hours they take out the vehicle.
The company incorporates the cost of insurance into the fee. Whatever the driver earns as fare and tips is thereafter his own wages entirely.
This second option is ideal for felons who often lack the resources to afford their own vehicle.
But there’s a catch. Not all felons may be able to get a TLC license. Let’s look at how felons can overcome this hurdle.
Securing A TLC License as A Felon
As mentioned, not all felons can qualify to get a TLC license. But just as with trying to get any other job, a criminal record makes it harder.
It is important to be honest about your criminal past when making your application. A background check is mandatory meaning hiding information will work against you. Industry opinion suggests that refusing to divulge such history will get your application denied.
The only exception to this is if you manage to secure an expungement. In this way, you can honestly indicate you have no criminal record.
If, however, you do not have an expungement, you will need to submit a court disposition. This will detail your conviction to the board. Failure to disclose your felony may be considered a fraudulent offense.
Certain offenses do make it impossible to secure a TLC license. New York state law prohibits licensing those with ‘serious criminal histories’. These offenses can include homicide, sexual assault, and vehicular manslaughter.
They can also exclude those convicted of operating a vehicle without a valid license. Those that commit an offense while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are also prohibited.
Those convicted of non-violent felonies stand a reasonable chance of gaining a TLC license. Be however prepared as you may be called upon to appear before a panel.
Avoiding further incidents with law enforcement is preferable. You can also bolster your case by taking up some volunteerism.
They need to know you are now an upstanding citizen. They also need to trust you will offer good services to New Yorkers and its visitors. Without fear you will re-offend.
How to Make the Most of Your TLC License?
Getting your TLC license and vehicle is just the first step. You will need to work hard to make a good return on this investment.
Know that there will be times business will flourish and times you may struggle. But that is simply part of the cost of doing business.
Whether you choose to drive a yellow cab or rideshare, make a concerted effort to be presentable. Keep your taxi nice and fresh. The more enjoyable you make a ride for your passengers, the better a tip they will give. And, the more likely they are to call upon you again.
With rideshare apps like Uber ad Lyft, client reviews are very important in maintaining your rating. The better the rating you have the more rides you likely attract.
Besides the physical environment, do try to remain courteous, even when the passengers are not. New York is a city where tempers often flare so try to keep cool even when provoked.
Be sure to help with the luggage and never be on the phone when driving. Also, do not initiate conversations unless the passenger seems inclined. Allow them to also dictate whether the radio will remain on and on what station.
Having a felony conviction is not always a deal-breaker when trying to get a TLC license. They will take into consideration several factors. This includes the nature of the offense, duration elapsed since conviction, and your age when you offended.
You stand a good chance if the offense was non-violent. Also, if it did not feature driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs.
If the offense does fall under these parameters, you may be better off seeking an expungement before applying.
Do provide full disclosure if you know the background check will reveal your criminal past. A failure to do this may result in an accusation of fraud.
Once you do secure your TLC license, be sure to work hard at pleasing your passengers. The happier they are, the more generous they will be with tips. This will be a significant boost to your income.
Many drivers have made a good living from being taxi drivers. If you are seriously considering joining the ranks, talk to other drivers in the business. They can offer guidance on how to make the most of this opportunity.