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Traffic Justice

Is Killing Someone While Unlicensed Worse Than Turning Without a Signal?

4:27 PM EST on February 12, 2014

After the death of Angela Hurtado, we wrote that aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree is "a go-to top charge" for prosecutors when an unlicensed driver kills someone. But the story of Orlando Findlayter suggests it's a catch-all for any traffic offense committed while driving without a license.

In case you missed it, Findlayter is a supporter of Mayor Bill de Blasio who was arrested Monday night in Brooklyn, after police reportedly stopped him for making a left turn without signaling and found that he did not have a valid license. Reports say Findlayter had two outstanding warrants, but the charge stemming from the traffic stop was third degree aggravated unlicensed operation -- an unclassified misdemeanor that stipulates that he drove without a license when he knew or should have known he didn’t have one. It carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

As in the Hurtado case, third degree aggravated unlicensed operation was the top charge against the drivers who killed pedestrians Maude SavageNicole Detweiler, Noshat Nahian, Rafael Diaz, Yolanda Casal, Laurence Renard, and Ibrihim Ahmed. In none of those cases was the driver charged with a more serious offense for causing a death.

Based on the charge against Findlayter, it appears that in the eyes of NYPD and city district attorneys, killing someone with a car merits the same penalty as failing to use a turn signal.

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