DA Thompson Plea Deal: Serial Unlicensed Driver Fined $250 for Deadly Crash

A serial unlicensed driver who killed a pedestrian will pay a few hundred dollars in fines pursuant to a plea deal with Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

The recidivist unlicensed driver who killed pedestrian Nicole Detweiler was fined $250 after a plea deal from Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. Image: ##http://www.ny1.com/content/politics/inside_city_hall/190291/ny1-online--brooklyn-da-candidate-thompson-responds-to-attacks##NY1##
The recidivist unlicensed driver who killed pedestrian Nicole Detweiler was fined $250 after a plea deal from Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. Image: ##http://www.ny1.com/content/politics/inside_city_hall/190291/ny1-online–brooklyn-da-candidate-thompson-responds-to-attacks##NY1##

Two motorists hit 32-year-old Nicole Detweiler as she crossed McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue in the early evening hours of December 29, 2013. She died at the scene.

According to DNAinfo, the second driver to strike Detweiler was Roberto Amador, then 35, who had been arrested less than a week earlier for driving with a suspended license when he collided with a cab on the Upper West Side. His license was suspended last May, the report said, because he didn’t pay “a recurring fee drivers pay the DMV for various infractions.” DMV imposed the fee after Amador accumulated six license points between December 2011 and May 2013, DNAinfo reported.

For the first offense, Amador was charged by Manhattan DA Cy Vance with second degree unlicensed operation, a charge that may be applied when a defendant is caught driving without a license after prior convictions for unlicensed driving, or when the defendant’s license was previously suspended or revoked pursuant to a drug or alcohol related driving offense.

After the fatal Brooklyn crash former DA Charles Hynes issued a top charge of third degree aggravated unlicensed operation — a less severe charge than the one applied by Vance — despite Amador’s pending unlicensed driving charge. Hynes did not charge Amador for killing Detweiler. Thompson, who defeated Hynes in last year’s election, didn’t upgrade the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Aggravated unlicensed operation tends to be the default top charge against unlicensed drivers who kill New York City pedestrians. It’s also applied against unlicensed drivers who commit non-criminal traffic infractions. State lawmakers failed this year to pass legislation to make it a felony to kill or injure someone while driving without a license.

In July, Amador pled guilty to the Manhattan charge and the court imposed a $200 fine, according to court records. On Tuesday, he pled guilty to aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree for the crash that killed Nicole Detweiler. He was fined $250 and given a one-year conditional discharge.

The message from prosecutors is this: Don’t bother with a drivers license in New York City. So long as you aren’t drunk, the justice system will barely inconvenience you — even if you kill someone.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Wow! Unlicensed to kill!

    Does it really require a legislative change in the law to finally put these reckless, recidivist, homicidal, sociopaths behind bars?!?!

    Are the laws we have now that impotent in the face of these crimes?!?!

  • Brad Aaron

    It’s hard to argue that the laws are the problem when DAs don’t bring maximum charges as it is.

  • armyvet05

    Yes and no- the charges discussed here are convoluted legalese that either make conviction difficult or allow a DA to worm out of being shamed for bringing such pitiful lesser charges. (see http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode/VAT/V/20/511)

    Clearly written felony legislation can make it easier for these DA’s to actually press the higher charges. And easier for voters to shame them when they do not.

  • Devan

    Getting off with a slap in the wrist will only encourages these reckless drivers to go out and drive even more recklessly, until they kill yet another innocent person. And then what? Another $250 fine? The lawmakers and (non)prosecutors are just as bad as the crooks for letting them get off so easy. Maybe they should be put in prison with them.

  • walks bikes drives

    17 years ago, when I got my driver’s license, my grandmother, then 80, sat me down and explained to me that a car was no different than any other weapon. Used correctly, it has a purpose. Used incorrectly, it can have devastating consequences. She impressed upon me that it was my responsibility to drive safely.

    If my grandmother was still alive, I’d ask her to have a little sit down with the DAs of NYC.

  • Devan

    It amazes me how you can be arrested and imprisoned in NYC for months if not years just for having some pot on you, but running over and killing someone while driving without a license? Get off with a $250 fine. And this is supposed to be the most walkable city in the United States? In reality it has some of the most regressive, anti-pedestrian policies in the country and the world.

  • kenney.sleater

    How are undocumented immigrants supposed to drive as part of their job and be able to support their families? People in this city need to be able to drive without a license. It is a human rights issue. Don’t you know that criminals from foreign countries have a right?

  • com63

    Are there any stats on what percentage of drivers in the city have suspended licenses or no licenses. It seems like a good chunk of accidents involve no licenses so the problem must be pervasive.
    Side question, I assume your insurance would deny a claim against your own car’s damage if you were unlicensed. Does that mean that these people also have no liability insurance for the people they injure to go after?

  • J_12

    bringing higher charges against drivers is difficult – typically you have to show intent or at least state of mind as a contributing factor. The one area where you can get convictions based solely or mostly on purely factual evidence is when alcohol is involved, which is why DUI is prosecuted aggressively but most other vehicular crimes are not.

    The DAs have some responsibility, as do police, but the legislature should probably bear the brunt of the blame as changing the law to make it easier to get convictions against drivers who kill/injure, even when they are not drunk, would have a large, immediate impact.

  • walks bikes drives

    It should be simple. Every collision should be fully and impartially investigated. If the driver is at fault, they go to jail. They also lose their license FOREVER. If they drive again without a license, they go to jail again.

    It is not possible to say that the driver is at fault in every collision, but it is fair to say most times, because that has been backed up with statistics.

    The city needs to make it safer for pedestrians. That is their responsibility, along with prosecuting those who should be. Drivers are responsible for driving safely and to take responsibility for their actions.

  • walks bikes drives

    If they don’t have a license, they probably don’t have any insurance either. So the civil suit would probably just go after the driver directly, and the owner of the vehicle, if a different person or entity. I don’t think insurance would cover either one, but could, theoretically, make a substantial financial burden on a person.

  • nycbikecommuter

    Yup. It’s also known as the Greatest City on Earth (my ass…)

  • Nathanael

    At this point it’s becoming clear that you need to organize a political party for the sole purpose of running DA candidates for election. The minimum requirement which the DA candidate would have to sign off on in the platform:

    — in all cases where motor vehicle drivers injure or kill pedestrians or bicyclists while violating a provision of the traffic code (unless the motor vehicle driver had a heart attack or similar medical incident), the driver WILL be charged with reckless endangerment, just as he would be if he recklessly shot someone with a gun.

    You need a political party line. Call it the “Safe Streets Party” or something like that. NY politicians will turn somersaults to get a fusion party endorsement… if you are really strict with your endorsements, and punish those who don’t live up to their promises, you could have some actual influence.

  • Nathanael

    Violating multiple traffic laws, driving without a license, etc. etc. is quite sufficient to demonstrate a mindset of *reckless endangerment*.

    In fact, historically, drinking was considered an *excuse*, because a drunk person’s judgment is impaired, and so they may not be intended to drive recklessly. A sober person driving recklessly would have had the book thrown at them back in the 1920s.

    The blame falls largely on the DA and police here.

  • Nathanael

    No. The DAs we have are not interested in filing charges.

    For a contrast, see Chicago; there was a “reckless homicide” charge reported on Streetsblog Chicago not long ago. No drinking involved.

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