In a month where ride-sharing companies almost considered leaving a state entirely over background check policies, this latest incident is likely to reignite questions about the companies’ own efforts: A Boston Lyft driver who’s accused of stabbing a passenger on Christmas Day had a prior conviction that, according to Lyft’s background check standards, should’ve made her ineligible to drive for the company.
Kiona Thomas, 25, was previously convicted for possession of a class B substance and resisting arrest in 2010. And, as the Boston Herald noted, the offense should’ve made her ineligible to drive for Lyft.
According to Lyft’s standards for background checks, “Every driver is screened for criminal offenses and driving incidents.” The standards say a driver will be ineligible if the background check reveals convictions within the past seven years that include: a violent crime, a felony, or a drug-related offense.
Lyft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement to the Boston Globe, the company didn’t respond to questions from the newspaper about her record, but said Thomas — who was arraigned on Tuesday for one charge of assault with intent to commit murder and is held on $15,000 bail — has been “permanently deactivated” from its system and had violated Lyft’s no-weapons policy.
“We remain ready and willing to assist law enforcement as they investigate this tragic incident,” the statement said.
The emergence of Thomas’ background comes as the state of Maryland agreed last week to exempt both Lyft and Uber from requiring drivers to undergo an extensive fingerprint-based background check, saying the companies’ checks were “as comprehensive and accurate as the fingerprint-based background check.” The move, at the very least, prevented both ride-sharing services from fleeing the state, as they did earlier this year in the city of Austin.
Elsewhere, in Michigan, an Uber driver was charged this month for allegedly stabbing a passenger several times during a snowstorm, after the victim tapped on his window. That driver, Jacob Allemon, has no reported criminal record.
In August, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed new legislation that requires Uber and Lyft drivers in the state to undergo a state background check, as well. Those checks won’t be completed until April 3.
Thomas is due back in court January 27.