What Are the Penalties for Driving Without a License in NY?
Points: There are no points for driving without a license. However, a conviction can still mean serious fines, surcharges, and an increase in insurance premiums.
Fine: VTL 509-1 states that anyone convicted of driving without a valid license in NYS will be charged a fine between $75 and $300. This is also true for drivers whose license has been expired for more than 90 days. Drivers whose license has been expired for less than 90 days can be fined up to $40.
Surcharges: In addition to the fine, New York State imposes a mandatory surcharge of $88 or $93 depending on whether the driver was ticketed in a town/village or other court jurisdiction.
Auto insurance increase: Drivers who are convicted of driving without a valid license can see their auto insurance rates go up. On average, premiums can rise as much as 18%.
Lose insurance coverage: In addition to a hike in premiums, if an insurer discovers that their client’s license is no longer valid they can drop the client, causing a gap in insurance coverage that could make getting a policy more expensive in the future.
Jail time: A conviction for driving without a license in NY can result in a sentence of up to 15 days in jail.
Hiring an Attorney to Fight a Driving Without a License Charge in NY
Driving without a valid license is a serious traffic offense that can have a lasting impact on one’s driving record. It can also limit potential employment opportunities, especially for jobs that require driving as a part of the responsibilities.
Common Defenses to a Driving Without Auto a License in NY Charge
Fighting a driving without a license charge can be difficult, depending on the case. Once a driver has been ticketed under VTL 509, the burden of proof is on him/her to prove that he/she was licensed to drive at the time of the offense. Those who can produce legitimate proof are likely to beat the charge. A license does not have to be issued to NYS to be valid. An unexpired driver’s license from any state in the U.S. or Canada can be used to beat the charge. The same is true of any license issued in another country, provided the individual is not a New York State resident.
Those who cannot produce proof of a valid driver’s license may need to negotiate with prosecutors to see the charge reduced—this is where having a skilled attorney is most critical.
How a NY Driving Without a License Ticket Affects Out-of-State Drivers
Drivers from outside New York State will need to produce evidence of a valid license if pulled over by NY police. As long as the driver has an unexpired license in one of the other 49 states, that person can use it to beat the charge. Those who cannot are likely to be convicted. Moreover, it is very likely that the conviction will appear one’s out-of-state driving record. Once there, it is only a matter of time before the insurance carrier discovers the charge and adjusts the premiums accordingly.
- Is driving without a license the same as driving while suspended?
No. Driving while suspended (also called Aggravated Unlicensed Operation) is a far more serious crime than driving without a license. The former can mean serious jail time and a permanent criminal record.
- Can I be charged with driving without a license if I left my license at home?
Yes. A driver who is unable to produce proof at the time of the traffic stop that they are licensed to drive can be ticketed under VTL 509-1. The good news is that if the license is legit and unexpired, then it can be shown to the judge to prove one’s innocence. The bad news is the judge may still issue a fine since the license was not in one’s possession while driving.
- Where can I drive without a license and not get a ticket?
A person can drive without a license on private property, but he/she cannot operate a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license on a public road or highway, in a shopping center, public parking lot, car wash (includes bringing the vehicle in and out of the carwash), etc.
- Can I lend someone my car if he/she does not have a license?
This is a bad idea! Knowingly lending an unlicensed driver one’s car is against the law under VTL 509-4 Permitting unlicensed operation. Should the unlicensed driver be caught by the police, he/she can be charged with driving without a license (VTL 509-1) and the car owner ticketed for permitting unlicensed operation (VTL 509-4).
- Can I be charged under VTL 509 for driving an out-of-class vehicle?
Yes, although technically this is a different violation known as VTL 509-2 Operating out of class. A standard Class D motor vehicle license does not permit one to a large truck or a motorcycle, for example. The fines for driving an out-of-class vehicle are identical to those of driving without a license.
Data on Driving Without a License in NY
In 2017, police in New York State wrote 266,175 tickets for driver’s license violations. Unfortunately, publically available DMV data does not differentiate between driving without a license (VTL 509-1) and other licensing violation, such as driving out of class (VTL 509-2) or permitting unlicensed operation (VTL 509-4). In total, license violations made up 7.2% of all tickets issued in the state last year. This is an increase over 2016, in which motorists in NYS received 250,809 tickets for license violations.
Driving without a license is often issued as a companion ticket to other violations, mostly due to the fact that an officer cannot know a person is not properly licensed until after he/she has been pulled over. In fact, driving without a license and other violations under the 509 statute made up one of the most commonly issued companion tickets in 2017. For example, 15.6% of speeding tickets (107,688) were issued in conjunction with other violations. Among those, 22.4%, or 37,439, were for license violations. They also comprised 22% of companion tickets to seat belt violations and 26% of companion tickets to cell phone violations.
Monroe County handed out the highest proportion of license-related tickets in 2017, with 16.5% (19,996) of tickets falling under the 509 and 510 statutes. Police in Long Island’s Suffolk County gave out the second-highest proportion; of the 282,494 tickets written in Suffolk, 12.3%, or 34,875, fell under those statutes.