Queens senator’s bill to increase penalty for drivers who injure or kill pedestrians with suspended license passes Senate

Mari Estrella
Photo by Mari Estrella

After an 8-year-old Woodside boy was struck and killed by a truck while walking to school in 2013, state Senator Michael Gianaris introduced legislation to further penalize drivers who cause similar tragedies.

The driver, Mauricio Osorio-Palominos, was driving without a license when he killed Noshat Nahian. Under current law, he could only be charged with a misdemeanor. Gianaris’s bill would have strengthened penalties but it did not pass the state Legislature.

Since then, more people in Gianaris’ district have been injured or killed by drivers with suspended or revoked licenses.

In January 2018, 13-year-old Ridgewood resident Kevin Flores was killed by a driver operating an oil truck while riding his bike. The truck driver was operating the vehicle with a suspended license and also had three prior arrests, including a July 2017 assault arrest for allegedly stabbing an individual in the arm.

Following Flores’ death, Gianaris re-introduced the bill and on April 16, it passed unanimously in the Senate. The bill makes it a class E felony to seriously injure a person while driving with a suspended, revoked or no license and a class D felony to kill someone while driving with a suspended, revoked or no license.

“My dearest friend Kevin Flores was killed and had an amazing future ahead of him,” said Neyfa Philogene, a seventh-grade classmate of Flores’ at Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School. “It is really an honor that this bill was passed to honor not only him but the children that have been killed in car crashes. This shows a lot of love. We loved Kevin and miss him, so thank you once again.”

According to Gianaris, most drivers who are convicted of second-degree vehicular assault rarely face jail time. Phillip Monfoletto, the man who killed Flores, had nine license suspensions on his record and still continued to drive. Gianaris said he also mocked “the leniency of our laws” in a Facebook post.

“I am pleased the Senate passed this important proposal, which is the first step towards delivering justice for families victimized by reckless motorists. These dangerous drivers continue to 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 bill must pass the Assembly before it is delivered to the governor and signed into law.