DMV: Six-Month Suspension for Driver Who Killed Sammy Cohen Eckstein

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles determined that the driver who killed 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein failed to exercise due care and did not have a valid license at the time of the crash. DMV administrative law judge Marc Berger suspended the driver’s license for six months.

Sammy Cohen Eckstein

At around 5:15 p.m. on October 8, 2013, Sammy was attempting to retrieve a ball from Prospect Park West at Third Street when Luis K. Quizhpi-Tacuri hit him with a Chevrolet van. According to findings issued by Berger on June 29 [PDF], Quizhpi-Tacuri admitted that he saw the ball in the street, and saw another driver, traveling in the same direction to his left, come to a stop. Rather than slow down or stop, Quizhpi-Tacuri passed the second vehicle on the right, striking Sammy with the right rear tire of the van.

According to the DMV report, Quizhpi-Tacuri testified at a June 26 hearing that he was traveling at 25 miles per hour when the collision occurred. He also said he was late for a 5:00 appointment.

Wrote Berger:

The sight of a ball rolling into the street in a residential area adjacent to a park in the afternoon should have warned the respondent of the likely presence of children — to carefully observe his surroundings and make appropriate adjustments, including slowing down or stopping if necessary. Additionally, the fact that the vehicle immediately to his left suddenly stopped after the ball passed should have been an indication to the respondent to use extra care instead of passing that vehicle on its right.

Berger found Quizhpi-Tacuri committed three traffic offenses: failure to use due care, passing on the right unsafely, and driving without a valid license. Berger’s report says Quizhpi-Tacuri had a Washington state license at the time of the crash, though he had lived in New York for nine years. New York requires drivers to obtain a new license within 30 days of becoming a resident.

NYPD failed to send any of the officers who investigated the crash to Quizhpi-Tacuri’s DMV hearing, according to Steve Vaccaro, the attorney for Sammy’s family.

NYPD blamed Sammy for the crash and issued no summonses or charges. No charges were filed by former Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes or his successor Ken Thompson, who took office in 2014.

Berger suspended Quizhpi-Tacuri’s license and driving privileges for 180 days for each of the three offenses, with the suspensions to apply concurrently.

“Even in a case where the police failed to issue a summons, much less bring a criminal charge, there’s a recognition that the driver failed to use due care under the circumstances,” Vaccaro told Gothamist. “At a time when it seems that some are clamoring for fewer consequences for drivers who injure and kill pedestrians, it’s really a very positive sign the DMV is taking these cases more seriously than they did even just a year or two ago.”

license suspension in New York State means a motorist can pay a fee and get his license back after the prescribed period, whereas a revocation requires a driver to re-apply for a license.

Berger suspended the license of the hit-and-run driver who killed Brooklyn cyclist Mathieu Lefevre for six months. DMV judge Sidney Fuchs issued a 30-day revocation to the driver who killed 3-year-old Allison Liao in a Queens crosswalk.

  • Andrew

    Wait. Not one single 180-day suspension, but “180 days for each of the three offenses, with the suspensions to apply concurrently”? Seriously? Does Marc Berger think this is all a joke?

  • BBnet3000

    Not driving for 6 months could also be called “being the median New Yorker”. Apparently that’s now the punishment they’re handing out for killing someone, unlicensed?

    Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve driven since around Thanksgiving and I’ve got a full license and a clean record.

  • Der Kaiser

    Criminal courts are where justice should be served DMV hearings are not for that!

  • Brooklynite

    Given that this man killed a boy while operating a vehicle recklessly with an invalid license, how is a license suspension an appropriate or meaningful penalty? He has already shown that he is willing to drive recklessly — and kill — while operating a vehicle without a valid license. We have every reason to expect that taking away his drivers license will not deter or prevent him from driving and driving recklessly. What is the appropriate penalty for killing someone while driving recklessly with an invalid license? This is not it.

  • stairbob

    DMV hearisgs are where we (society) stop people from driving (legally). Stopping people from driving is absolutely appropriate is cases of negligence or lack of due care. I wish we would see a lot more of it.

  • BBnet3000

    Yes but once the criminal justice system has failed we have to hope for the best from the regulatory apparatus. The DMV is the last line of defense to try to keep dangerous people off the road.

  • Der Kaiser

    Without any tickets being issued by police the ALJ is limited in his penalty options because you have to compare to previous cases with no tickets issued. He could have tried to slam him but it would just have been challenged and reduced causing more time to pass and more $$ to be spent to end up where it is now.

  • Der Kaiser

    Agreed but the ALJ’s do not have carte Blanche to penalize how they see fit. They have to follow precedence or it will risk being reversed and thrown out all together

  • stairbob

    Sounds like a catch-22; I’m glad they are trying to set new precedents.

  • Exactly, he has already shown inclination to operating without a license, how is pulling a non-existent license any kind of punishment?

  • Andrew

    There is precedent for allowing three 180-day suspensions to be concurrent?

    (Does it work that way with money, too? Could I use one $5 bill to concurrently pay for three $5 items at the supermarket?)


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