New York § VTL 511: Aggravated Unlicensed Operation

“Driving While License or Privilege is Suspended or Revoked”

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle, or A.U.O. for short, is a common but serious crime (Yes, you read that right. Although it is defined in the Vehicle & Traffic laws, this is not a traffic violation). There are three degrees of AUO, with the worst being a felony, and penalties can include time in jail as well as fines up to $5,000! Unlike a traffic ticket, there are no points assigned.

‣ A.U.O 3rd Degree

(a) A person is guilty of the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree when such person operates a motor vehicle upon a public highway while knowing or having reason to know that such person’s license or privilege of operating such motor vehicle in this state or privilege of obtaining a license to operate such motor vehicle issued by the commissioner is suspended, revoked or otherwise withdrawn by the commissioner. [source]

Fines & Penalties: $200 – $500 Fines and/or up to 30 days in jail. Commercial drivers (CDL) face more severe penalties: $500 – $1,500 Fine and/or up to 30 days in jail. (For vehicles with gross weight over 1800 lbs).

This is the most common “flavor” of Aggravated Unlicensed Operation. Ironically, we find that most people who get this ticket have no idea that their license was suspended in the first place. Many times a driver ticketed for A.U.O. has open tickets from 20 years ago back when they were visiting a friend in college or something like that. Next thing they know, they’re back in New York getting pulled over for talking on their cell phone and the State Trooper comes to the window, “Sir, did you know your license is currently suspended?”

Sometimes our kind Broome County officers will give you details about the exact nature of your license problem(s), including court names, and send you on your way with an “unlicensed operator” ticket (non-crime). Others will refer you to DMV and impound your vehicle. Whatever the case, they are within their rights to arrest you and get you off the road.

In many case, the cause of all these problems is a simple failure to update your address with DMV. When you forget to answer a ticket or pay a fine on time, DMV will send you a “Notice of Suspension” letter, usually stating that you have 30 days to comply before a license suspension will be ordered. The problem occurs when you don’t get this reminder – either because you moved, don’t have the right address on file with DMV, or it simply got lost in the mail. None of those are excuse enough on their own to get you out of this jam, but when you talk to us about your case (or whatever lawyer you do hire), please give us all the details.

Especially confused are the out-of-state and Canadian drivers that find out that New York DMV has somehow put a hold on their home state’s (or country’s) drivers license. This is one of the most compelling reasons why you must answer your tickets and/or pay your fines in New York state. You can’t just go home and forget about the little speeding ticket you got from Officer Barney in some tiny little town called Vestal (“or whatever it was”) thinking it will never affect you. Failure to respond to a traffic summons or pay a fine are the most common causes of an Aggravated Unlicensed Operator ticket. Failure to pay DMV Assessment Fees as well as child support will also result in license suspensions or revocations.

Although this is a crime, the good news is that Broome County District Attorneys and courts are usually willing to work with us and our clients who show that any unpaid fines, unanswered tickets, and other Scofflaw situations have been satisfied. The bad news is that you will not be able to qualify for the Traffic Diversion Program with this kind of ticket.

Depending on your situation, you may or may not have to make an appearance in court alongside your attorney. We always do our best to try and make sure our clients, especially those that live far away, do not have to attend court, but sometimes the judge will make it a requirement. The chances of having to come to court increase if you have been charged with A.U.O. 2nd degree or A.U.O. 1st degree.

‣ A.U.O. 2nd Degree

(a) A person is guilty of the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree when such person commits the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree as defined in subdivision one of this section; and (i) has previously been convicted of an offense that consists of or includes the elements comprising the offense committed within the immediately preceding eighteen months; or (ii) the suspension or revocation is based upon a refusal to submit to a chemical test … or (iii) the suspension was a mandatory suspension pending prosecution … or (iv) such person has in effect three or more suspensions, imposed on at least three separate dates, for failure to answer, appear or pay a fine, pursuant to subdivision three of section two hundred twenty-six or subdivision four-a of section five hundred ten of this chapter. [source]

 Fines & Penalties: There are several options at the disposal of the local Justice, including Fines anywhere from $500 to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, and probation. Because of the complexity of these cases, please contact our office for more detail.

Aggravated Unlicensed Operator 2nd is a misdemeanor and is a serious step up from AUO 3rd. As found in the letter of the law above, you have to already be in trouble for AUO 3rd to be charged with AUO 2nd. and have some additional complication like a mandatory suspension pending prosecution issued by a judge (not just an “I forgot to pay an old ticket” situation), multiple license suspensions, or have DWI issues involved.

‣ A.U.O. 1st Degree

(a) A person is guilty of the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree when such person: (i) commits the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree … and is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a drug … or (ii) commits the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree … and is operating a motor vehicle while such person has in effect ten or more suspensions, imposed on at least ten separate dates for failure to answer, appear or pay a fine … or (iii) commits the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree … and is operating a motor vehicle while under permanent revocation … [source]

Fines & Penalties: $500 – $5,000 Fine. Imprisonment according to Penal Law. Probation.

A.U.O. 1st is a Class E Felony, which is a much more serious crime than second and third degree A.U.O. It’s a little confusing, but to be guilty of A.U.O. 1st degree, you have to already be guilty of A.U.O. 2nd and:

  • Operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Or you can be guilty of A.U.O. in the third degree and commit one of the following:

  • Operate a motor vehicle while having at least ten or more suspensions, all from different dates for failing to answer, appear, or pay a fine. (This usually means problems in multiple courts).
  • Operate a motor vehicle while under permanent revocation.

Even the DMV mandatory revocation for three speeding convictions in 18 months is not permanent, so these circumstances are pretty rare.

Binghamton A.U.O. Attorneys

If you need help with a charge (or multiple charges) of Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle in any degree – including Facilitating A.U.O. (not a crime) – we know what we’re doing and we can help. We serve all of the Binghamton area courts. Please always feel free to call our office, send an email, or even leave a comment here so we can get back to you.

2 thoughts on “New York § VTL 511: Aggravated Unlicensed Operation

  1. What if my husband had an auo in the first did his time they dropped it down to misdemeanor and judge said if I see yu again I can bring the charges back and then he gets auo 1st in another county

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