Ex-convict’s Lyft License Driving Debate in Mitchell

MITCHELL, S.D.- An application for the ride-sharing company Lyft is driving debate in Mitchell.

The service just started up in town, and a man convicted of attempted murder and helping with a kidnapping in 1992 wants to be among the first lyft drivers.

He says he did his time in jail and 26 years later wants to get on with his life.

“I drove taxi 7 years ago in sioux falls, never had a problem, no one said a word and now all of the sudden it’s a big deal,” said Joseph Novak. 

However some are concerned and not sure how he got approved, so we looked into what steps a person must take to be accepted as a driver.

There are certain guidelines a person must follow depending on their city. In Mitchell a potential driver has to be approved by city council for a taxi cab general licence. Mitchell City Attorney Justin Johnson said legally Novak passed.

“Our city ordinance for vehicle for hire, which is your taxis, limos that kind of stuff is more focused on vehicle safety and insurance requirements that kind of thing we don’t focus on the individual drivers.”

They must also follow South Dakota’s laws.

“When Uber and Lyft, those types of companies were looking to come into South Dakota the state passed  a few laws to help facilitate that process.”

The law states you can’t be convicted of a felony in the past seven years. Novak was convicted back in 1992.

Then they go through a background check with Lyft, which Novak tells KDLT he passed.

On lyfts website they include a list of what would disqualify someone including felony, violent crime, drug related offenses and sexual offenses. He says he was told by Lyft that the South Dakota law applies. 

Novak says he’s done everything required to become a driver and wants people to know him for the man he is now not the mistake he made years ago.

“Get to know me before you judge me,” said Novak. 

Novak says he understand if people don’t feel comfortable riding with him and that’s their choice. He just wants a way to make some extra money.  

Novak said as of Wednesday night, that Lyft put his account on hold.

KDLT has reached out to Lyft for a comment, but have not heard back.

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