Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas on Friday renewed her call on Albany lawmakers to pass legislation increasing penalties for suspended and revoked drivers who injure or kill others after the guilty plea of a man who killed a 12-year-old Valley Stream resident.
“This tragic case is a sad reminder that our laws need to be stronger,” Singas said in a statement. “A suspended or revoked driver who seriously injures or kills a person should be charged with a felony— not the same misdemeanor charge the driver would have received if he or she had just been stopped by a police officer. I’m grateful for our bill sponsors and call on Albany to take action before another tragedy occurs.”
Singas’ call for action came after Austin Soldano, 30, of Seaford, pleaded guilty today to charges in two vehicular crime cases.
In August 2014, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Long Beach, which caused his license to be suspended, the DA’s office said.
While illegally driving with a suspended license in December 2014, the DA’s office said, Soldano struck and killed 12-year-old Zachary Ranftle in Valley Stream.
The legislation, which was authored by Singas’ office and sponsored by state Sen. Jack Martins and Assemblymen Todd Kaminsky and David McDonough, would make driving with a suspended or revoked license chargeable as an E felony in incidents involving serious injury, the DA’s office said.
Suspended and revoked drivers involved in incidents resulting in death would be charged with a D felony under the proposed law.
In current law, suspended and revoked drivers involved in incidents resulting in death or serious injury face misdemeanor charges with a maximum sentence of six months of jail time.
Soldano pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, failure to stop at an intersection, and reckless driving in the drunk driving case.
In the case involving Ranftle’s death, he pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and failure to exercise due care.
Soldano was also recently convicted of a third case, in which he pleaded guilty to third-degree unlawful fleeing of a police officer in a motor vehicle and reckless driving in a 2013 incident on the Southern State Parkway.
He is expected to be sentenced to six months in jail for the 2013 case, the DA’s office said, and is expected to be sentenced to 18 month’s in jail for today’s two cases.
Soldano is expected to be sentenced for today’s cases on Jan. 5, 2016, according to the DA’s office.
Assistant DAs Christopher Casa and Stefanie Palma of Singas’ Vehicular Crimes Bureau are prosecuting the case.