Penalty for Driving Without a License in New York

by Tom Streissguth

The state of New York requires all drivers to have a valid license. New York law allows visiting drivers to operate with an out-of-state or foreign license but also requires all new residents to apply for a New York license. Penalties for driving without a valid license, for not applying for or renewing a license or for driving on a suspended or revoked license can be severe, up to and including a felony charge, a hefty fine and jail time.

Basic Penalties

New York's Vehicle and Traffic Law 509.1 covers driving without a license. The penalties for violating this statute include a fine of $75 to $300 and up to 15 days in jail. If a driver has simply left his license at home or doesn't have it with him, he can produce a valid license in traffic court and ask the court to dismiss the ticket. A driver may also defend the charge by proving he had a valid out-of-state or foreign license at the time he was stopped.

Driving With a Suspended License

A bit more serious is the crime of driving with a suspended or revoked license. This can bring a charge of aggravated unlicensed operation, or AUO. A third-degree AUO, the least serious offense, is a misdemeanor charge that results in a criminal record. Second-degree AUO is the charge when driving on a license that has already been suspended at least three times or was suspended due to a drug- or alcohol-related violation of the law. The minimum fine is $500, and state law also requires jail time on conviction.

The Worst That Could Happen

If a driver has had 10 or more suspensions, he can be charged with first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation. The same charge applies to an arrest for alcohol or drug intoxication while driving on a license that has been suspended for the same reason. This felony charge can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to four years of jail time.

New Residents and Visitors

New York gives new residents 30 days to apply for a New York driver's license, and license holders have 60 days to renew the license when it expires. Failure to renew an expired license and driving on the old one is punishable under the same Vehicle and Traffic Law statute; the mandatory fine is $40. Foreigners may drive on their home country's license, if it's valid, or on an international driving permit that gives driver information in English.

About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.