2018-04-25 / Front Page

Full Senate Nod For Gianaris Dangerous Driver Bill

By Liz Goff
The state Senate last week unanimously passed legislation introduced by Sen. Michael Gianaris that would significantly increase penalties for drivers who kill or seriously injure another person while driving with a revoked, suspended or otherwise invalid license.

Under the measure passed last week, anyone caught driving a motor vehicle without a valid license who strikes a pedestrian would face a class E felony charge punishable by up to four years in jail. Anyone caught driving without a valid license who causes an accident that kills another person would face a class D felony, which caries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Under current law, the most severe charge such drivers face is a violation for driving without a license. Penalties for the current charge are likened to getting a parking ticket, a moving violation or a speeding ticket, Gianaris said.

Gianaris first introduced the bill following the 2013 death of eight-year-old Noshat Nashian, who was struck and killed by an unlicensed truck driver while heading to school. The measure never made it to the senate floor for a vote during the 2014 legislative session.

Gianaris reintroduced the bill in March 2015 following a spate of fatal accidents in western Queens, including the hit-run death of Kunnin Ubonwan, 26, who was struck by an unlicensed driver as she attempted to cross Woodside Avenue near 76th Street in February 2015.

The truck driver, Valentine Gonzalez, 27, fled the scene but was captured by police a short while later on 73rd Street and 41st Avenue, police said. Gonzalez was charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and was issued a violation for driving without a license.

The Astoria lawmaker redoubled his efforts following the tragic death of Ridgewood teen, Kevin Flores in January 2018.

“I am pleased the Senate passed this important proposal, which is the first step toward delivering justice for families victimized by reckless motorists,” Gianaris said.

The most severe penalty District Attorneys can currently seek in these cases is a misdemeanor charge, Gianaris said. Drivers who are convicted are rarely sentenced to jail time, leaving them free to injure, maim and kill other victims.

Phillip Monfoletto, the driver who killed Kevin Flores, had a history of nine license suspensions, yet he continued to drive with a suspended license, even mocking the leniency of our laws in a Facebook post, Gianaris said.

“These dangerous drivers continue kill because the current punishment does not fit the crime,” Gianaris said. “We must get serious about strengthening our laws before another life is lost at the hands of drivers who should not be behind the wheel.”

The Granaries “Dangerous Drivers” bill is awaiting action by the State Assembly, where it is currently stalled in the Assembly Codes Committee.

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