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New York Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO) of Vehicle Defense Attorneys

One of the most common and most complex traffic offenses involves the unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.  Although the base offense is a misdemeanor, a conviction for aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO) can carry serious penalties and consequences.  Convicted defendants can face hefty fines, further suspension of their driving privileges, probation, and even jail time.  In its most serious form, AUO can be charged as a felony with the potential for a lengthy prison sentence.

What is AUO?  The Three Degrees

Aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO) is a more serious offense than standard “unlicensed operation,” or driving when a defendant has never been licensed to do so.  A defendant may be charged with AUO when they drive on a New York public highway with a suspended, revoked, or withdrawn license.  The crime is codified at NY Vehicle and Traffic Law § 511.

Third-Degree AUO.  The base-level AUO is a misdemeanor.  Third-degree AUO is chargeable whenever a driver operates a vehicle on a highway in New York when they know or should know that their license has been suspended, revoked, or withdrawn.

Second-Degree AUO.  A person can be charged with second-degree AUO when they are guilty of third-degree AUO and any of the following applies:

  • They have a prior AUO conviction within the previous 18 months; or
  • Their current license suspension is based on an alcohol or drug-related conviction (e., DWI or DWAI) or refusal to take a breathalyzer; or
  • The license suspension occurred while the driver was awaiting prosecution for a drug or alcohol-related charge; or
  • The driver has three or more prior license suspensions.

First-Degree AUO.  First-degree AUO is a felony.  A person can be charged with first-degree AUO when they drive with a suspended or revoked license and one of the following also applies:

  • The driver has a past second-degree AUO and was also charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated; or
  • The driver has ten or more prior license suspensions; or
  • The driver’s license was permanently revoked due to a DWI conviction or refusing a breathalyzer.

Penalties for Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO)

The penalties for AUO depend on the level of the offense charged.

  • Third-Degree AUO is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $200 to $500 and/or up to 30 days in jail.
  • Second-Degree AUO is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $500 to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail or on probation.
  • First-Degree AUO is a felony, punishable by a fine of $500 to $5,000 and significant probation or prison time.

A court may order probation as well as alcohol or drug counseling as a condition of the sentence for any AUO conviction.

Driver License Suspensions Are Common

AUO is an extremely serious charge, even though there are any number of reasons why a driver’s license might be temporarily suspended.  Not all license suspensions result from arrest or driving while intoxicated.  Driver’s licenses may be suspended, for example, for any of the following reasons:

  • Failure to pay a traffic ticket
  • Failure to pay child support or alimony
  • Refusing a breathalyzer test
  • Too many “points” on a driver’s record
  • Conviction for driving without insurance
  • Too many speeding tickets
  • Lapse of insurance coverage

It’s Enough to Have “Reason to Know” a License Was Suspended

It is important to keep in mind that a driver can be convicted for AUO even if they did not know their license was suspended.  It is sufficient for a driver to “have reason to know” that their license has been suspended.  If a driver forgets to pay a traffic fine, and their license is revoked without their knowledge, they can be convicted of AUO and arrested during their next traffic stop.  It is important to keep on top of your driving record and any court issues so that you are not caught unawares and suddenly find yourself with a criminal record.

Help is Available for Drivers Facing Unlicensed Operation Charges in New York

The lawyers at Dupée & Monroe have decades of experience helping people like you build the strongest defense possible against aggravated unlicensed operation charges and other traffic offenses. If you have been arrested for AUO or other offenses in Goshen, Orange County or anywhere in the Hudson Valley region, contact Dupée & Monroe, P.C., for immediate assistance from experienced New York criminal defense attorneys.

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