Driving Without a Valid (or on a Suspended) License in New York

Read about the penalties for driving without a valid license in New York.

New York prohibits driving without a valid license, whether the license was suspended, revoked, or never issued. This article explains what constitutes these violations, the possible penalties, and the exemptions to the rule.

Driving Without a License

Every person who operates a motor vehicle must have a driver's license to drive on a New York highway.

Driving without a valid license. Unlicensed driving (meaning the driver was never issued a license) is punishable by a $75 to $300 fine and/or up to 15 days in jail.

License not in possession. A driver who was licensed but did not have the license in his or her immediate possession can be arrested for driving without a license. However, the person cannot be convicted of a crime if the driver was properly licensed.

Exceptions. A non-resident driver with a valid driver's license from his or her home state or country can drive in the state without a New York license, subject to New York age restrictions. Additionally, those operating farming vehicles, emergency response vehicles, and some military vehicles can be exempt from certain licensing requirements.

Driving While Suspended

A person who operates a vehicle while on a suspended or revoked license in New York is guilty of "aggravated unlicensed operation" of a motor vehicle (AUO) and can face fines, jail time, and vehicle loss.

Third-degree AUO. A first offense driving while suspended is a third-degree AUO and holds a fine of $200 to $500 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Second-degree AUO. Violators who were suspended for a DWI (driving while intoxicated), DWI test refusal, or for having three failure-to-appear suspensions are guilty of a second-degree AUO. This carries a fine of $500 to $1,000 and seven to 180 days in jail.

A second driving-while-suspended conviction within 18 months is also a second-degree AUO, but carries a minimum $500 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

The driven vehicle will also be impounded and only released to a licensed owner with proof of insurance after all costs are paid.

First-degree AUO. A first-degree AUO is a class E felony and includes:

  • commission of a second-degree AUO while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • having ten or more suspensions for failing to appear or pay fines
  • driving while revoked for a DWI conviction, and
  • driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs while holding a DWI conditional license.

A class E felony carries a $500 to $5,000 fine and up to four years prison. The driver's vehicle will also be impounded and may even be subject to seizure and forfeiture.

New York prohibits any AUO violations to be plead down or reduced to a lesser charge.

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