Driving with a Suspended Driver’s License in New York

By: Adam H. Rosenblum Esq. | Last Updated:

Driving with a suspended license in New York is called Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO). This is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of $200–$500, a mandatory surcharge, and possible imprisonment up to 30 days or probation.

Here are some of the specific consequences for driving while suspended:

Criminal record: Driving on a suspended license is classified as a criminal offense in New York. The formal charge is called Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO). There are three levels of AUO in New York. Third- and second-degree AUO are misdemeanors, while first-degree AUO is a felony. A conviction means having a permanent criminal record, which can affect many aspects of a person’s life from employment to housing opportunities, and even immigration status.

a suspended license in New York

Jail time: Drivers caught driving while suspended risk a jail sentence upon conviction. Drivers can spend up to 30 days in jail for AUO in the third degree; up to 180 days in jail for AUO in the second degree; and up to four years in jail for AUO in the first degree.

Fines: The cost of a conviction for driving on a suspended license in New York depends on the severity of the charge. Third-degree AUO can cost $200 to $500. Second-degree AUO can cost $500 to $1,000. In the most severe cases, first-degree AUO can cost $1,000 to $5,000.

Degree of AUO Fine Max. Jail Sentence Criminal Charge
Third Degree §511-1 $200 to $500 Up to 30 days Misdemeanor
Second Degree §511-2 $500 to $1,000 Up to 180 days Misdemeanor
First Degree §511-3 $1,000 to $5,000 Up to 4 years Felony

Auto insurance premium increase: Driving while suspended in New York can cause insurance premiums to skyrocket. While the exact amount varies, rates can go up by as much as 40 percent. He/she will also be classified as a high-risk driver and very likely could get dropped by the insurer altogether.

Conditions for NY AUO (Driving While Suspended) Charge

  • Third Degree AUO
    • Found to be operating a motor vehicle with knowledge that their license has been suspended or revoked.
  • Second Degree AUO
    • Has been previously convicted of AUO in the third degree within the last 18 months;
    • Suspension or revocation is based upon a chemical test refusal;
    • Suspension was a mandatory suspension pending prosecution for charge of driving while intoxicated;
    • Has three or more suspensions imposed on at least three separate dates for failure to appear, answer or pay a fine.
  • First Degree AUO
    • Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, along with a previous second-degree AUO;
    • Committed the offense while having in effect 10 or more suspensions, imposed on at least 10 separate dates for failure to answer, appear or pay a fine;
    • Committed the offense while under permanent revocation resulting from three DWI convictions or three refusals to submit to a chemical test (or any combination thereof), as well as from two DWI convictions resulting in serious injury or death.

driving while suspended infographic

Hiring an Attorney to Fight a Driving While Suspended in NY Charge

Driving with a suspended license is more than just a traffic ticket—it is a serious criminal offense. In addition to jail time and substantial fines, a conviction can make it difficult to get affordable car insurance for years. It is urgent that any driver facing a charge of driving while suspended hire a qualified NY traffic ticket attorney to reduce the charges, minimize the fines, and avoid both a criminal record and the risk of jail time.

Common Defenses to Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO)

Pursuant to the AUO statute, if at the time of getting ticketed the driver held a license from a foreign country, state, territory, or federal district permitting him/her to drive in New York, then he/she cannot be convicted of driving while suspended in New York. However, most drivers do not fall into this limited category. For those with only a New York license, do not lose hope! There is a great defense that good attorneys implement in order to help fight this charge.

If enough evidence is garnered, a defense that usually is quite successful is called the “lack of knowledge” defense. According to the statute (see above), in order for a driving while suspended charge in NY to hold up, the driver must have known or should have known that the license was suspended. A New York driver’s license can be suspended for a number of reasons that can catch the driver by surprise. The following are the ones that most drivers are unaware of:

  • Being convicted of speeding 3 times within 18 months
  • Being convicted of speeding twice in a construction zone within 18 months
  • Accumulating 11 points within 18 months
  • Failing to respond to or pay a New York traffic ticket (including cell phone tickets, seatbelt tickets, etc.)

This defense will almost always result in a reduction or outright dismissal if the driver can present concrete evidence that he/she honestly had no idea that the license was suspended because they

  • Did not receive any written notice of the suspension (i.e. mail, e-mail, etc.)
  • Did not receive any verbal notice of the suspension (i.e. phone call, etc.)

and as a result could not have been expected to know that the license was suspended.

If the reason the person was not aware of the suspension is because he/she did not open their mail (even though the DMV sent a letter regarding the suspension), then it will be much harder to successfully mount a “lack of knowledge defense.”

In such a case, a prosecutor will likely say that the driver should have known under the circumstances because a person of normal sensibilities checks their mail regularly and would have found out from the sent letter. Remember, make sure to give all of the facts to a NY traffic ticket attorney and supply him with any documents received regarding the suspension. Doing this will allow him to help construct the best defense possible. Just because you might be guilty in the eyes of the law doesn’t mean a skilled attorney can’t negotiate or argue you out of it. An experienced attorney will know how to negotiate the best outcome possible regardless of the circumstances.

Case Law Analysis

The case law in New York regarding driving while suspended license tickets reveals a little-known insight into defeating the AUO charge.

In People v. Pacer, 847 NE 2d 1149, the prosecution attempted to introduce an affidavit prepared by an official at the DMV claiming that all of its notice procedures were followed effectively. Additionally, the prosecution admitted that the affidavit was a “sworn document prepared by a government official specifically for use by the prosecution at trial” (see People v. Pacer, 6 N.Y.3d 504).

Cleverly, the defense attorney cited a famous Supreme Court case, Crawford v. Washington, to help his client. In Crawford, the Supreme Court ruled that testimonial statements that were not previously subjected to cross-examination are inadmissible against a criminal defendant (see Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36).

The defense attorney used this precedent to argue that the affidavit constituted the paradigmatic piece of evidence that Crawford required to be excluded.

In an amazing ruling, the court in Pacer found:

  • Here, the affiant’s sworn statement—that she had information causing her to believe that the Department actually mailed notice of revocation to defendant—was crucial to the People’ case. Faced with evidence of this type, defendants have no means of challenging the People’s proof on a critical element. Without an opportunity to cross-examine the affiant, defendant had no chance to inquire about the basis for the affiant’s “information and belief” that the Department mailed the notice. Defendant had no chance to inquire whether the Department sometimes makes mistakes in mailing revocation notices; whether there were other drivers in the Department’s database with the same name as defendant to whom the Department might have mailed the notice; to what address the affiant believed, based on her information, the Department had mailed the notice; whether the notice might have been returned undelivered; or whether the affiant could testify reliably about procedures as they existed 16 years earlier. In short, the lack of a live witness to confront eliminated defendant’s opportunity to contest a decisive piece of evidence against him.

People v. Pacer, 6 N.Y.3d 504, 509.

What does all of this mean for a driver charged with AUO? Anyone ticketed with AUO in New York now knows that if any affidavit is being used against the driver by the DMV (or a similar kind of written document), but the author of that document is not willing to come to court to be cross-examined by the defense attorney at trial, New York law requires that the document be excluded from evidence and not used against the driver!

This case is a great weapon that any traffic ticket attorney trying AUO cases should use whenever he or she finds it applicable.

It is crucial to remember that the prosecution bears the burden of proof even in an driving while suspended case. This means the prosecution must be able to show that you knew or should have known about the suspension. If an attorney can eliminate such evidence based on this precedent, the driver is well on his/her way to a lesser offense or an outright dismissal.

For more information about driving with a suspended license check out our Driving While Suspended ebook.

Out-of-State Drivers

New York law enforcement can easily look up a driver’s license to see if it is suspended. But can an officer in New York tell if an out-of-state driver’s license has been suspended? The answer is, usually but not always. Thanks to something called the Driver’s License Compact, police officers in New York State (and other participating states) can look up an out-of-state driver’s license during a traffic stop in New York. If the out-of-state license has been suspended, then the New York-based officer can issue a ticket for driving while suspended. Out-of-state drivers still face the same fines, sentencing, and criminal charges as a New York driver. In addition, an out-of-state driver who is convicted of driving while suspended in New York can see the charge appear on their driving record, which will also affect their auto insurance rates.

Common Questions

  • Can you go to jail for driving with a suspended license?

    Yes. The lowest-level charge for driving while suspended in New York can result in up to 30 days in jail. For the highest-level charge, a person could spend as much as four years behind bars.

  • Is it a felony to drive with a suspended license?

    In most cases, no. But AUO in the first degree is a felony. There are several circumstances that can result in a first-degree AUO charge (see the chart above).

  • If my license is suspended in New York, can I still rent a car in another state during the suspension period?

    In most cases, no. Any reputable car rental company will deny the rental application if the driver’s license is suspended.

  • Can I get a license in another state if my NY license is suspended?

    No. Nearly all license applications in the U.S. ask if the applicant has a suspended license from another state. Those who lie and are caught could face even more serious charges.

  • If you give a police a valid out-of-state license will they see your New York suspension?

    It depends on the circumstances but very likely, yes. If the out-of-state license is still current and valid, then a suspension in New York is likely to appear on the out-of-state driving record. It’s also possible the out-of-state license will be suspended in response to the New York suspension.

Data on Driving While Suspended in New York

Preliminary figures show that New York law enforcement officials in 2017 issued more than 111,000 tickets for Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO), also known as driving while suspended. This is a 4 percent increase over 2016, in which nearly 106,000 such tickets were written. In 2017, the most tickets for driving while suspended were issued in Suffolk County on Long Island, with more than 20,000 written. This is more than twice the next-highest county, Erie, which handed out 9,305.

It is nearly impossible to tell if a driver’s license has been suspended until after the officer has had a chance to check it during a traffic stop. Thus, a person is most likely going to be charged with AUO after being pulled over for another infraction such as speeding, cell phone or texting violations, or seat belt violations. Nearly 9% of all companion tickets (those issued in addition to the primary reason for the traffic stop) were for driving while suspended.

The facts are clear: driving while suspended is a serious charge and the likelihood of getting caught is very high. A conviction for driving on a suspended license in New York can have a serious long-term impact on one’s life, including the ability to drive, obtain insurance, get a job, and more, in addition to the risk of jail time.

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  • Jessiah Haynes
    February 3, 2020

    I was pulled over last night for obstruction of view for having a cross hanging on my mirror, and aggravated driving without a license, and technically i never knew my license was suspended

    • Ronen Cohen
      February 4, 2020

      Jessiah – In order to provide you with any advice, we need additional information – including the location of the traffic stop, and the specific violation codes for the tickets you have received.

  • Neil Sims
    October 23, 2019

    I was stopped yesterday and never given a reason, nor was I issued a ticket for any concurrent infraction. I was issued two tickets, one for driving without a license and one for driving on a suspended license. I have an Iowa license, and just recently moved to Long Island for school. I was informed that I have an incident in Cattaraugus County, NY on my record from 2001 (yes, 18 years ago), but I have no recollection of ever being there. This incident is why my license is suspended in NY state. So now I have three issues to clear up, all because I had no idea my license was suspended in NY, or even any knowledge of being in the place of the original infraction.

    • Ronen Cohen
      October 24, 2019

      Neil – I would suggest contacting us at your earliest convenience to discuss these tickets. A ticket for driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor offense – which is a serious violation that cannot be removed from your criminal history should you be found guilty.

  • Steven Gerogianis
    May 22, 2018

    I received a ticket for AUO 3rd because my license got suspended for not paying a Driver Assessment Fee. I was unaware that my license was suspended or else I would have simply paid the fee and got the suspension lifted. I was not on a highway, but on main street in Northport.

    • Ronen Cohen
      May 30, 2018

      Steven – this violation is classified as a misdemeanor offense. As such, it is not possible to expunge it from your criminal record in NY. I therefore strongly suggest contesting this violation. If you would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact us directly at 888-883-5529.

  • RLF Attorneys
    August 4, 2017

    Bradley – while we can never predict what precisely a court will do, this is a viable defense to the offense in question.

  • Bradley
    July 9, 2017

    I was recently ticketed for AUO 3rd (511a) and failure to keep right after being involved in an MVA while on private property. The entrance to the property has clear signage stating ‘Private property, no trespassing’. I was on the property legally as I work for an employer on said property.
    My question is, would proving that the incident occurred on private property be an applicable defense to get the charges dismissed? Per 511(a) I was not operating on a public highway or roadway open to the public.

    • Chris Chris Han
      December 8, 2017

      Bradley – if proven true, that is likely a valid defense to AUO in the 3rd degree.

  • Mike
    February 17, 2016


    I travel all over the world and depending on project, I am not in one state long enough to justify changing license every 6 months on average. I use to live in NY but have not had a NY licence for nearly 30 years. I was in NY visiting 16 years ago and did get a ticket, pleaded not guilty, officer did not show up, judged dismissed, but it evidently showed up as not paid and they said my NY license was suspended for not answering answering ticket. So not having a NY licence, how did this court clerical error go back to NY records when I did not present a NY license as I have not had one for 10 years when I got ticket in NY in 2001 according to officer, and it was dismissed. So I just got a ticket for driving with suspended license due to this supposed unpaid ticket? I verified my license in other state and is valid?

    One other thing, this ticket was issued in retail parking where they were using scanner on parked cars which I was sitting in. So how is this unlicensed operation when not on public highway or road, but officer put the name of road shopping center is off of? I was not driving on this road so how can a ticket be issued when parked.

    Thank you,

    • Adam Rosenblum
      March 2, 2016

      Mike – irrespective of the underlying legal arguments you may present – it is likely more cost efficient for you to pay any outstanding fines and bring your driving status up to date.

  • Chris
    January 11, 2016

    I got an AUO in the third last night after being told my license was suspended by two different towns. Of course I was placed under arrest and charged. Here’s the kicker, it was suspended due to unpaid tickets, that I had mailed in not guilty. I have a crazy life, and forgot about them entirely. Not thinking at the time I never received a court date. Nor did I ever receive any notification from DMV. My wife gets are mail everyday, and she has never seen anything from DMV or the towns. So basically I was charged with an AUO even though I honestly had no clue. Basically if I read your article right, for the DMV statement to be submitted, they must have the rep, show in court? If they do not, it cannot be admissible correct?

    • Adam Rosenblum
      February 4, 2016

      Hi Chris, legal representation is needed for an AUO charge. AUO charges are criminal offenses and could lead with some time in Jail. Please contact our office for a free consultation to find out how we would be able to assist you. We could be reached at 888-883-5529.

  • katie
    January 9, 2016

    i was charged last year with aggrevated driving on a suspended license in the 3rd..payed all my fines and went to what i thought was ny dmv and paid 70$ fee to lift suspention..paper i have even says department of motor vehicles on the top..she told me to carry paper with me 2-3months that was march 2015. so january 5th i got pulled over leaving work cause my breaklights stay on constantly he ran my license and it came up suspended..i was so confuse cause i thought i took care of everything..i am now being charged with aggrevated driving on a suspended license in the 2nd..so i found the paper i was to carry with me 2-3 months and took it to dmv find out was was going on..she said that paper was from county clerks office..not dmv..even though it says dmv on the top anyway she said i also owe tickets in another ny town and thats who has the suspension..which i plan on calling mon soon as office opens to take care of fast as possible but my court date is on 28th will i go go jail even though i really did think my license was reinstated?

    • Adam Rosenblum
      January 20, 2016

      Katie – due to the serious nature of these charges, I suggest you contact us as you had mentioned. This is a very fact specific case, and would like to clarify a few details with you before providing any further advice.

  • sandra
    July 25, 2015

    My son was sleeping in his vehicle with AC on. Community security officers knocked on his car window. He woke up. The NYPD arrived they ran his license and unbeknowst to him, his license was suspended. He was arrested and charged with a VTL 511. I am very confused. He was not driving his vehicle. He was parked, sleep with AC on. Is that a crime?

    • Adam Rosenblum
      August 7, 2015

      Sandra – it truly depends on what they are claiming your son has done. Due to the serious nature of this infraction, I suggest you contact us to discuss further.

  • Connie
    June 2, 2015

    I was given a AUO in the 3rd, I paid the 750 driver responsibility fee and was stated that my license was reinstated. I later learned that I had a 500 fee to pay and that they now found a ticket from 2009 where my license is suspended, and now received a AUO in the 2nd- within a month time frame. What do I do?

    • Adam Rosenblum
      June 4, 2015

      Connie – due to the serious nature of the charge, I strongly suggest you contact us for a free consultation.

  • Chris
    March 8, 2015

    I recently got pulled over and given an auo second and I have had two other auo in the third but they were more than 5 years ago will this affect my current AUO

    • Adam Rosenblum
      March 13, 2015

      I strongly suggest you contact us to discuss your ticket, as the consequences for this violation are severe.