DA Brown: $500 Fine for Unlicensed Driver Who Failed to Yield, Killing Senior

Update: Pursuant to a plea arrangement with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, in March Abel Tinoco pled guilty to aggravated unlicensed operation and was fined $500, according to court records.

As NYPD ramps up enforcement against pedestrians who cross mid-block and against the signal, a funeral was held last week for a senior struck in a crosswalk by an accused unlicensed driver making an illegal turn.

Angela Hurtado, 68, was crossing Grand Avenue in Maspeth at around 11:00 a.m. on January 18 when 28-year-old Abel Tinoco made an illegal left turn onto Grand from 69th Place, hitting her with an SUV, according to published reports. She died hours later from head trauma.

Angela Hurtado. Photo via Queens Chronicle
Angela Hurtado. Photo via Queens Courier

Hurtado came to the U.S. from Ecuador when she was 21, according to the Queens Courier. She was a cancer survivor and was working as a housekeeper at 3 World Trade Center on 9/11. Along with area residents, Hurtado’s daughter Zoraya B. Torres said the family wants changes at the intersection where her mother was struck, to prevent another crash.

“My mom was a very humble woman, a good-hearted person and a loving mother,” said Torres. “It’s hard to believe that something so horrible could have happened to her.”

Court records say Tinoco was charged only with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Tinoco’s license had been suspended since last October, according to the criminal complaint filed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The complaint did not specify the cause of the suspension.

State Senator Michael Gianaris has introduced a bill to make it a class E felony  to cause serious injury or death while driving without a valid license, so long as the license was suspended or revoked for traffic offenses. A second bill would require drivers with suspended or revoked licenses to surrender their vehicle registrations and license plates. Gianaris held a press conference Sunday at Grand Avenue and 69th Place, calling on Albany lawmakers to pass the bills.

Since Tinoco was driving without a license and made an illegal left turn when he struck Hurtado, he should have been prosecuted for a more serious offense under the so-called “rule of two,” an arbitrary standard that holds that a New York State motorist who is breaking at least two traffic laws at the time of a crash may be charged with criminal negligence.

City district attorneys often cite the rule of two as an obstacle to filing charges when a motorist is reported to have broken one traffic law, such as running a stop sign, before killing a pedestrian or cyclist, yet prosecutors routinely fail to adhere to the rule when a driver is accused of breaking two or more traffic laws at the time of a fatal crash.

Third degree aggravated unlicensed operation is a go-to top charge for prosecutors when an unlicensed driver kills someone. It is the top charge against the driver who fatally struck 72-year-old Maude Savage as she crossed a Brooklyn street, in a crosswalk and with the signal, last November. At least nine pedestrians were killed by unlicensed drivers in 2013, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

We asked Brown’s office why Tinoco was not charged with negligence pursuant to the rule of two. In response, a spokesperson sent us a copy of the criminal complaint. Tinoco’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 12.

Streetsblog asked Gianaris yesterday if he is satisfied with the rule of two. “No, not at all, and there’s efforts to change the rule of two, which I support,” he said. “We need to get the policymakers’ heads around the fact that we are not dealing seriously enough with dangerous drivers.”

This fatal crash occurred in the 104th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Christopher M. Manson, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 104th Precinct council meetings happen on the third Tuesday of the month. Times and locations vary. Visit the precinct council web site or call 718-386-2431 for information.

The City Council district where Angela Hurtado was killed is represented by Elizabeth Crowley, who attended Gianaris’s event yesterday, as well as last night’s vigil for Ella Bandes and other traffic violence victims. To encourage Crowley to take action to improve street safety in her district and citywide, contact her at 212-788-7381, ecrowley@council.nyc.gov or @ElizCrowleyNYC.

With reporting by Stephen Miller

  • SteveVaccaro

    The “Rule of Two” is traditionally a way of establishing the driver’s criminal recklessness or negligence based on multiple violations which combine to produce the injury. Not sure that an unlicensed operation charge would serve that purpose of establishing recklessness. In any event, the “Rule of Two”: seems never to be applied, only referenced (in cases when there is arguably only one violation) as a justification for no prosecution. .

  • JK

    The goal is to get dangerous drivers off the road. Start by impounding the vehicle of every unlicensed driver stopped for a traffic infraction. Make them pay a minimum, say $1500 fine and prove they have a valid license before the vehicle is released. Make people take license suspensions seriously. Proving intent is exceedingly difficult, make the motorist prove they have a valid license. is easy. No license, no vehicle. The penalty system for bad driving is built around the assumption that a valid license is mandatory, it should be, but it’s not.

  • Matt F

    if only she were wearing flashing lights and holding a flashlight….

  • Matt F

    what if you had a younger sibling, age 15, who snuck into your room, took your keys, and then took your car for a joyride, only to get caught at a rolling stop. bye bye car.

  • Jonathan R

    Do you lock up your gun or just leave it under the bed for your siblings with poor impulse control to find?

  • Matt F

    Well I don’t own a gun but I do keep my knives in the knife drawer and luckily only 2 of my 5 teenage kids cut their fingers off…so far.

  • Jeff

    Don’t forget the helmet!

  • Miles Bader

    What about the airbag suit?

  • Brownstone2

    At 11 in the morning.
    Get some really, really bright LEDs.
    This is pathetic.

  • greggzuk

    “State Senator Michael Gianaris has introduced a bill to make it a class E felony to cause serious injury or death while driving without a valid license”

    Guess if you murder someone with this particular deadly weapon – and you have a license to operate it – then it would still be smooth sailing. Mmm. Why doesn’t the DMV just change the official classification of these licenses to “License to Kill” and be done with it. I’m all for calling spades spades. Anyone else?

  • Ang

    I don’t find this amusing so I hope you were misunderstanding that this occurred during the day. I know this womans family and they would be very hurt to see your flippant comments about the terrible death of their loved one. Please be more considerate in the future.

  • Matt F

    you must not read NYC bikesnob.

    I can’t find the article, but essentially the brooklyn police put out a statement saying pedestrians should walk around with flashlights, reflectors, flashing lights, helmets so they don’t get hit by cars.

    So call me insensitive if you want (i won’t take it personally), this is the reality we live in.

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