Actor Matthew Fox, known for his roles in Party of Five and on the TV series Lost, was arrested about a week ago and charged with DWI. He also received a misdemeanor charge for “not having a driver’s license.” The arrest took place in Fox’s home state of Oregon following a traffic stop. Fox was allegedly swerving outside his lane and not using his directional signal while going out for a snack a little after 3:00 a.m. Upon pulling Fox over, the officer determined that he was under the influence of alcohol, and the arrest followed.
We bring this up not because the DWI arrest of an actor is so newsworthy. In the last couple of months alone, we’ve seen drunk driving charges filed against a number of other celebrities, including Amanda Byrnes and Bobby Brown, to name just two. Nor is there anything unique about a celebrity encountering alcohol-related problems. Fox himself was involved in an altercation last year in Cleveland in which he allegedly punched a bus driver – no charges were filed in connection with that incident, but it has been suggested that alcohol was involved.
What caught our eye was the statement in just about all the news stories which covered the arrest, to the effect that Fox apparently did not have a driver’s license. We haven’t been able to learn any more about that portion of the charges, but it does give us the opportunity to provide information to our readers as to the effect and possible penalties which might be applicable had the incident taken place in New York.
In a recent blog, we talked about penalties for various DWI and DWAI charges. But what happens in New York if you are convicted of driving when your license has been suspended or revoked, known in New York as Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO)? The answer, of course, is that it depends on a number of things, including your driving history. Here are the general rules, in a nutshell:
- Third Degree AUO – This is the basic charge of driving while your license is suspended or revoked. The maximum punishment is a $500 fine, mandatory insurance surcharge, and either probation or up to 30 days in jail. It is a misdemeanor.
- Second Degree AUO – If the conviction followed a previous conviction, within the prior 18 months, of third degree AUO, the penalties are a maximum $500 fine, surcharge, and jail time of up to 180 days, or probation. However, those penalties increase if (a) the original revocation or suspension was alcohol-related or the result of the refusal to allow a chemical test; (b) the original suspension was mandatory, pending the conclusion of an alcohol or drug-related case; or (c) the driver had his license suspended on three or more occasions for failure to respond to tickets. This is also a misdemeanor.
- First Degree AUO – This is a felony, and the penalties are substantially harsher than those for the misdemeanor charges. A first degree AUO offense consists of driving on the suspended or revoked list when intoxicated (drugs or alcohol), when the suspension is the result of an alcohol or drug-related offense (or refusal to take a chemical test). First degree AUO may also arise as the result of 10 or more prior license suspensions issued as a result of failure to respond to tickets. The penalties for first degree (felony) AUO include up to a $5,000 fine; imprisonment for up to four years, surcharge, and the possible forfeiture of the vehicle being driven.
What is apparent from all of this is that being convicted of driving while your license is suspended or revoked can result in penalties that are not all that dissimilar to penalties for DWI. If you have been charged with driving on the revoked or suspended list, or if you are facing a DWI or DWAI offense, contact an experienced New York DWI attorney and former prosecutor to guide you through the process.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016