North Charleston City Council members are giving a taxi permit to a driver who recently pleaded guilty to intimidating someone in a court proceeding.

The approval came as city officials recently passed a set of rules designed to screen cabbies, with an emphasis on making the riding public safer.

The driver was put on probation in February following a Berkeley County arrest in which he was charged with intimidation of a court official, jurors or witness, according to State Law Enforcement Division records supplied by the city.

The violation is a felony but not considered a violent crime under South Carolina law.

North Charleston earlier this year moved to tighten city rules that included a variety of mandates, including a requirement that all cabs operate with a meter and all drivers be licensed by the city.

Officials wanted to prevent cabbies with serious felonies in the last five years from being issued a city taxi license. Also, they wanted to bar those on the state's sex offender registry and those with habitually bad driving records.

But city leaders also set up an appeals process for drivers to plead their case.

Following a closed-door hearing Thursday night, City Council's Public Safety Committee opted to give a taxi permit to the driver, identified as Robert L. Nelson, 41, of Mount Pleasant.

Members said at first the felony intimidation charge was thought to be a violent crime. When they discovered it was not, they opted to allow thelicensing, but with a year probation.

"You're a lucky young man," said Councilwoman Dorothy Williams, afterward.

Before the hearing, Nelson said the issue was him trying to feed his family. "That's all I'm trying to do is earn a living," he said.

Meanwhile, another cabbie, who was denied a permit because of a poor driving history, lost his permit on appeal. He was told he could apply again in three months.

North Charleston's crackdown on cabs, their appearance and on their drivers came after complaints arose over cabbie conduct, including over fare charges and drivers who showed substance abuse problems or used their cabs in criminal activities.

So far, about 170 cabbies have been approved by the city, while about nine have been turned down for variance reasons.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551, or