New York Vehicle and Traffic Law 511: Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle

Although it may seem like a shout out to George Orwell, your New York criminal defense lawyer or Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 511 attorney can arguably say that not all Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle crimes are equal as some are “more equal than others.” No, the VTL is not “Animal Farm,” but while the title of the crime or crimes may be the same, the consequences and penalties are vastly different. For example, depending on the number of suspensions and the number of dates you incurred them, the NYPD or any other police department in the State of New York can charge you with Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle in the Third, Second or even First Degree. Of course, this assumes you were operating a motor vehicle on a public highway with knowledge of your suspension(s). What makes this crime or set of crimes equal, yet different, is that some of the subsections and degrees of VTL 511 are unclassified misdemeanors, a conviction for the more serious Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle offense, aka, AUO, is a felony.

You can choose to look at any degree of VTL 511 as insignificant because you might have been given a Desk Appearance Ticket to appear in criminal court, but do so with your eyes wide open. A conviction will scar you with the brand of a criminal record while also exposing you to fines and even jail.

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle: Degrees of VTL 511

3rd Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation: VTL 511(1)(a)

The lowest level of the AUO crimes, VTL 511(1)(a), Third Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle, is also the foundation crime for every other degree of this offense. A misdemeanor, you are guilty of VTL 511(1)(a) if you operate a motor vehicle on a “public highway” knowing, or should know, that your privilege or right to operate a motor vehicle was suspended or revoked. Keep in mind that even one suspension violates the law.

Not only must you know, or have reason to know, the prosecution is required to prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt. In doing so, or in an attempt to prove this element, the District Attorney can provide a certified copy of your New York driving abstract from the DMV confirming your suspension or revocation. While moving and having your suspension sent to the wrong address is not a defense if you failed to advise the DMV (VTL 505(5) requires that you advise the DMV in writing within ten days of your move), the prosecution must confirm that a notice was in fact sent and can do so through certain records.

If convicted of VTL 511(1)(a), this unclassified misdemeanor is punishable by a $200 to $500 fine and up to thirty day in jail.

2nd Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation: VTL 511(2)(a)

If you commit Third Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle and you have a prior conviction for that misdemeanor in the preceding 18 months, your suspension or revocation relates to a DWI (VTL 1192) offense, or you have three or more suspension imposed on at least three separate dates for failure to answer, appear or pay a fine, then you will have run afoul of Second Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle, VTL 511(2)(a).

Also an unclassified misdemeanor similar to AUO in the Third Degree, VTL 511(2)(a) is an unclassified misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 180 days in jail, possible probation and a minimum fine of $500 and maximum fine of $1,000.

1st Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation: VTL 511(3)(a)

The most serious of all Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle crimes, VTL 511(3)(a) is not a misdemeanor, but class “E” felony. Just like AUO 2nd, there are numerous ways or means to violate First Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle. For example, if you commit VTL 511(2)(a) while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then the crime is elevated to this felony. Additionally, if you violate VTL 511(1)(a) and have at least ten suspensions on ten separate dates for failure to answer, appear or pay a fine, the misdemeanor is bumped up to a felony offense. The last two sections of VTL 511(3)(a) involve committing Third Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle while you are permanently revoked pursuant to VTL 11923 or you are operating a motor vehicle while both under the influence and have a conditional license.

Unlike the unclassified misdemeanors, First Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle is a punishable with a penalty of up to four years in prison. Complicating matters, fines range from $500 to $5,000 and are mandatory along with either probation or an incarceratory sentence.

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle: Penalties and Punishment for VTL 511

As noted above, depending on which degree of VTL 511 you violate, the potential penalty ranges from as little as $200 to as great as $5,000 fines, incarceration of up to thirty or 180 days in jail, or as much as four years in prison if the offense is a felony. Couple these fines and potential jail with probation, the consequences are quite steep for any Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle conviction in New York.

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle: Don’t Lose Your License and Livelihood

An arrest for and conviction of New York VTL 511 slams those accused on two fronts. Not only is a conviction for Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle permanent, but it strikes at the heart of most of our daily lives. If you cannot drive your vehicle to work, school, family events, medical treatment, or any other important component of your daily life, your ability to provide for and take care of yourself and your family is severely limited.

If you are accused of one of these crimes, take the steps to get your case on the right trajectory. Clear your suspensions if they are the basis of your criminal allegation and work with your criminal defense lawyers to best steer you to a non-criminal resolution. When faced with a criminal record, there is no substitute for knowledge, experience and advocacy. Let the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC protect you today and for every tomorrow that follows.

Call our New York criminal defense attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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