Do I Need to Disclose My Criminal Record When I Apply to Be a Taxi Driver?
Beginning in 2005, there have been national and state movements to limit prospective employers from asking about criminal records on job applications. The success of the movement has created “ban-the-box” legislation in 37 states, including New Mexico. The ban significantly helps people with criminal records successfully apply for jobs.
While this is good news, the legislation does not limit employers from performing standard criminal background checks as part of the application process. To reduce the negative impact of criminal background checks, another New Mexico law limits what information background checks can disclose. Both of these limitations mean that you don’t have to talk about your criminal record at the beginning of the application process, but you might have to talk about it further on. If that happens, you need to be prepared.
New Mexico law (§ 28-2-3.1) forbids private employers, like a taxi company, from asking in their initial employment application if you have a criminal record. Specifically, it is illegal to ask you about your “history of arrest or conviction.” That said, the law does allow a prospective employer to ask about “an applicant’s conviction” after review of the application and in discussing possible employment. On a practical level, this seems to mean that you have moved beyond the initial application and are being considered for the position. And since they can ask only about “an applicant’s conviction,” they need to have an actual event in mind, rather than simply fishing around.
Based on New Mexico’s ban-the-box law, you probably don’t need to disclose your criminal record when applying to be a taxi driver or answer speculative “fishing expedition” questions during the hiring process that are not related to a specific event in your background.
Background Check Law
While background check laws in New Mexico are not as restrictive as the ban-the-box laws, they do limit what information is disclosed to an employer. Arrests, indictments, or convictions for which you were released or paroled seven or more years ago cannot not be disclosed on a background check in New Mexico. If you have a criminal record, look carefully at the dates of your arrests or convictions and determine what events will show up on the background check. Knowing this information can help you down the line in the application process.
Crimes That Disqualify You from Being a Taxi Driver
The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission oversees taxicab services and drivers. To that end, it prohibits certain people from being taxi drivers. According to the state Motor Carrier Act (§ 220.127.116.11(B)(1)-(2)), you cannot be a taxi driver if:
- You were convicted of a felony within the last seven years;
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor for driving under the influence, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, or any other driving-related offense within the last seven years;
- You have three misdemeanors of any kind (note there is no seven-year limitation for this disqualification); or
- You are a registered sex offender.
If enough time has passed between your application as a taxi driver and one of the above criminal events, a criminal background check cannot disclose it. Therefore, it is critical that you determine what events on your criminal record will show up in a background check. Also, if you are thinking about the disqualification for any three misdemeanors, keep in mind that the three events may not all appear on the background check depending on when they happened. While you may have three misdemeanors on your criminal record, your prospective employer may not know that. You need to judge how to handle the disclosure of any misdemeanors that did not show up on a background check.
After the Background Check
At this point, you have moved beyond the initial application and could be hired as a taxi driver. Assuming that you have an arrest or conviction that shows up on your background check, what should you do?
Knowing what your prospective employer knows is key to navigating yourself successfully to being hired. Remember, New Mexico law allows the employer to ask about any convictions, but they will only know of convictions that are less than seven years old. Also, the law indicates that any questions about convictions need to be specific (e.g., “Tell me about your arrest in 2020”), and not just an open ended question (e.g., “Have you ever been arrested?”). And remember, you don’t have to volunteer anything to your prospective employer about your criminal record. So if they don’t say anything, you probably shouldn’t either. On the other hand, you may need to discuss your criminal record. If so, it may be helpful to bear in mind that the New Mexico ban-the-box law says that when an employer discusses “an applicant’s conviction,” they do so after review of the application and in relation to possible employment. In addition, New Mexico law permits the employer’s internal policy to disqualify applicants who have “certain criminal history.” Take these somewhat flexible issues as your opportunity to convince your employer that the specific criminal event will not have any negative impact on your employment and would not be against their internal policy.
New Mexico law provides limitations to keep people with a past criminal history from being disqualified from jobs at the very start of the process. With that opening, you need to understand what a prospective employer does and does not know about your criminal record and use that information to your advantage and get hired.
Don’t Let Past Mistakes Shape Your Future
New Mexico Criminal Law Offices zealously advocates for people who have been arrested or convicted of a crime. We know that they also need a new start in life. We can help you keep the past in the past and also be truthful with your potential employer. Call New Mexico Criminal Law Offices immediately at 505-200-2982 or contact us online if you need help deciding to disclose your criminal record when applying to be a taxi driver.