Gianaris calls on legislature to enact tougher penalties on unlicensed drivers

Gianaris calls on legislature to enact tougher penalties on unlicensed drivers
State Sen. Michael Gianaris introduces legislation to combat gun violence and pushes his colleague to pass his safe streets bill after a Ridgewood teen was killed bu an unlicenses driver.
Courtesy Gianaris’ office
By Bill Parry

In the wake of a fatal car crash that took the life of a 13-year-old Ridgewood boy, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) is calling on his colleagues to pass his bill that would increase the penalty when a driver kills or seriously injures someone while driving with a suspended or invalid license.

Kevin Flores was killed Jan. 27 when he was struck by an oil truck as he rode his bicycle in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The teen was taken to Interfaith Hospital with severe head trauma where he was pronounced dead, according to the NYPD.

The truck’s driver, Phillip Monfoletto, 28, of Deer Park, Long Island, remained at the scene and was arrested and charged with one count of aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle.

“This accident is yet another avoidable tragedy caused by a driver who should not have been behind the wheel to begin with,” Gianaris said. “Too many lives have been lost at the hand of drivers whose licenses are suspended or otherwise invalid because the punishment does not match the crime.”

Currently, the most severe penalty a district attorney can seek in such instances is a misdemeanor. Even with aggravating circumstances, the most severe case is a class-E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

Rarely are convicted drivers sentenced to any jail time at all and they remain free to commit additional offenses. The perpetrator in this case was arrested multiple times in the past for the same offense and was still driving improperly, according to Gianaris. The Gianaris measure would increase the penalty to a class-E felony for seriously injuring a person and a class-D felony if the accident resulted in a death.

Gianaris, a longtime advocate for safer streets, introduced the bill, known as S. 3299, after 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed driver while walking to P.S. 152 in Woodside in December 2013. Mayor Bill de Blasio came to the school less than a month later to unveil his Vision Zero initiative.

When the measure passed in the Senate last year, Gianaris said there was an urgency to getting it signed into law.

“Too many lives have been lost at the hands of drivers who should not have been on the road in the first place,” Gianaris said at the time. “I am glad the Senate passed my bill and I urge the Assembly and Gov. Cuomo to follow suit and enact this important proposal into law immediately.”

The measure failed to pass in the Assembly, meaning the process begins anew.

Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic Conference rolled out a slate of legislation designed to curb illegal guns on New York’s streets Tuesday. Gianaris introduced a bill that would extend the waiting period for background checks to be completed to 10 days from the current three. The bill would also include provisions to require firearm dealers to alert law enforcement of attempted criminal purchases of weapons.

“More responsible gun laws will make our communities safer, keep firearms away from dangerous people and ensure preventable tragedies do not happen,” Gianaris said. “Senate Democrats will not stop fighting for a safer future for New York families.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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