The pinnacle belief of the “American Dream” is that through hard work you can build a new life, regardless of your past. However, it’s rarely that easy. Finding work after your sentence is sometimes a long, frustrating road.
Thankfully, as new means of income become available through technology, we have more opportunities emerging for people who committed felonies in the past. One of these potential employers is Lyft, an app that allows customers to order car rides from their phones. Lyft is a great way to earn a steady flow of cash; depending on your area, you can make $15-$20 in tips an hour.
In this article, you’ll learn what qualifications you need in order to drive for Lyft. While some restrictions do apply, Lyft is a viable option in finding work, even with a convicted past. So, let’s dive in!
No matter your background, Lyft has a set standard for your mode of transportation. Here’s why: In order to ensure the safety of their drivers and passengers on the road, regulation cars help protect the company from lawsuits should an accident occur. When working at Lyft, you can drive your own car or rent a regulation car. If you provide your own car, it must:
- Be clean (no trash inside)
- Have no broken windows
- Have no broken tailpipes
- Be rust-free
- Be a model newer than 2004
In the case that you do not have access to a regulation car, Lyft offers a leasing service to provide safe cars to their drivers for a weekly fine. For more official information on car qualifications, you can read about Lyft’s requirements here.
Like many other ridesharing apps, works to provide their customers with a sense of security and uniformity. In addition to a regulation car, drivers must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Pass background check (We’ll get to this in a minute)
- Pass DMV background check (More on this later)
- Have a Social Security Number
- Have an iPhone 5S (or newer) or an Android smartphone
- Provide a copy of their driver’s license
- Provide proof of automobile insurance
- Submit a current photo themselves
These requirements allow passengers to feel secure in their ride and ultimately to be safe on the road. Some of the required pieces are also necessary to make sure drivers are able to communicate effectively with passengers, too. By submitting this information and obtaining the necessary tools, you’re on a good track to being approved to drive for Lyft.
If you’re a felon, this is the part of the application process where things get a little tricky. As the categories of ‘misdemeanor’ and ‘felony’ change with legislation from state to state, it can be difficult to know how to prepare for the application. While Lyft does often hire drivers with a convicted past, they are very careful to ensure the safety of their passengers. For this reason, here’s what you need to know about the background check:
- It takes 3-10 days to complete
- The applicant’s name is run through the National Sex Offender Registry and the State Sex Offender Registry. If the applicant’s name comes up, the applicant is banned from being hired – this is true for many kinds of jobs and companies you might apply to, and not just Lyft.
While Lyft only looks at an applicant’s record within the past seven years, some crimes have been reclassified from misdemeanors to felonies in that time. Therefore, it’s important that you are aware of changing legislation and how it might affect you. Make sure to check on your past misdemeanors to make sure they haven’t been changed to felonies. Although this is unlikely, it does occasionally happen, and it can be disappointing to learn this information later on in the hiring process.
If you can meet with an attorney prior to your application, they could give you more information on potential problems in getting hired by Lyft (or in getting hired for other companies, if you’re interested in keeping your options open). While Lyft DOES hire felons, the confusing, often unclear standard for what is and isn’t a disqualification can pose the biggest roadblock in an application.
Luckily, Lyft is pretty transparent about letting applicants know why they were accepted or rejected. If you need more answers about why you did not make it through, make sure you check with Lyft after receiving your notification. Sometimes, the rejection has nothing to do with your status as a felon – you may have missed a piece of information that needed to be included on your application, for example – and the application misstep is easy to fix.
Driving (DMV) Records
During the course of your background check, Lyft also examines your DMV record to ensure you drive safely. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not as simple as you’d think. For Lyft to hire you, you must have:
No major violations within the past 3 years, and no more than three moving violations within that time.
- Acquired no DUI or drug-related charges within the past 7 years
- No extreme infractions (hit-and-run, felonies involving a vehicle, similar crimes) within the past 7 years
- All driving tickets taken care of.- although Lyft won’t eliminate you for having tickets, it is wise to make sure that all payments are taken care of
While it seems obvious on the surface that to drive for Lyft you must be a good driver, remembering to check in on your driver’s history prior to applying for Lyft can prevent avoidable issues.
What To Do If You Get Hired
In the case that you get hired, there’s more you need to know if you want to keep your position at Lyft. While working as a driver is a consistent job, risks to your position may and will present themselves. Luckily, we have some tips on how to spot these risks, be aware of them, and actively prevent them from occurring.
As a driver, your report with passengers is vital to your success. When you give a ride, keep in mind that your performance as a driver will be rated by the passenger. Keep these things in mind to give your passengers a 5-star experience (side note – these are great tips for everyone to follow, too):
- Do not ask for tips; the app will prompt them later
- Be polite
- Do not tell the passenger you are a felon
- Refrain from anger or road rage
- Do not smoke in your car
- Keep conversations friendly, but not awkward
- Arrive on time to pick up your passengers
Keeping your customers safe is of the utmost importance at all times, and a good rating helps potential passengers see that you go above and beyond expectations. In some cases, it will be difficult to read your passengers; some may want to talk, others may want to be left alone. It is for this reason we recommend greeting passengers with an open mind, and recognizing that no two customers are the same.
Remember, with a passenger in a car, just one mistake can mean your job with Lyft is over. If you are reported for road rage or aggressive driving, you could be hired immediately. Likewise with irresponsible or unsafe driving. In the case of just one dangerous driving incident, you could be terminated and your account could be deactivated.
As a felon, it is important for your safety and job security that you keep a dash cam in your car. In the case that a customer falsely accuses you of anything, the dash cam serves to protect you legally and financially. Find a dash cam that shows the inside of the car and the front to ensure you are protected from false testimony.
It is also important to know that Lyft may run a background check on you at any point in time while you are working for them. Even after you’re cleared at the start, Lyft wants to make sure that their drivers are safe. Likewise, they run annual check-ins on their drivers, so be ready, safe, and conscious of your activity during the duration of your work for Lyft.
Finding work with a criminal background is difficult, but by working through the application process patiently and honestly you’ll find a place to help you get back on track. Lyft requires extensive background and safety checks, and while they do hire felons, they ultimately stay cautious due to their services in transportation.
For more information on employment opportunities for felons, visit our articles on the hiring process for temp agencies and government work, as well as retail establishments like Auto Zone, Lowes, and Target.
Remember, while looking for work may be difficult, you are not defined by your convicted past. You have new opportunities to rebuild, and we’re here to help you do it. Don’t give up if the job at Lyft isn’t the one for you! Check out our articles on felony rights and potential employment to find more opportunities.