New York has some of the toughest traffic laws around – and it doesn't take much to accumulate a pile of points on your driver's license. Once you get too many points, your license will be suspended. You won't get it back, either – at least, not until you earn it back by paying your fines, taking a remedial driving course, and doing whatever else the court demands.
What happens, though, if you take a chance and drive on a suspended license?
You Can Be Charged With Aggravated Unlicensed Operation
Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO) is the criminal charge applied after someone is caught operating a motor vehicle on a suspended driver's license. It's a multi-tiered offense, so it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
The prosecutor will essentially look at two main factors when deciding how you are charged:
- Why your license was suspended in the first place
- Whether you have been caught driving on a suspended license before (and, if so, how many times)
It's important to remember that you will face AUO charges in addition to whatever citation or citations you receive as a result of the traffic error that caused the police to pull your vehicle over in the first place.
What Punishments Come With an AUO Conviction?
At best, you can expect to be charged with a 3rd-degree misdemeanor, which can result in up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail or probation.
If you had a previous AUO conviction within the last 18 months and you're caught driving on a suspended license, the charge will be a 2nd-degree AUO. A conviction means mandatory jail time (up to 180 days) or probation and a $500 fine.
If you have multiple suspensions under your belt or are caught driving on a suspended license while impaired by drugs or alcohol, you can expect a 1st-degree AUO charge, which is a felony. A conviction can put you behind bars for four years, and fines can skyrocket. You may even lose your vehicle.
What Kinds of Defenses Can You Use Against an AUO charge?
A criminal law attorney can help you determine exactly what defenses best apply to your situation, but they may include:
- You were driving on a foreign license that you believed was valid.
- You didn't realize that your license had been suspended or revoked because you were never notified.
- You thought the suspension had been lifted because you had paid your previous fines or completed the requirements to lift the suspension.
- You were in an emergency situation that justified your actions.
Ultimately, no case is entirely hopeless, but those who have never had an AUO charge before definitely have options for their defense. Experienced legal guidance is your best option.
For more information contact a criminal law attorney in your area.