Actor Stephen Baldwin was arrested last week in Harlem and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, a misdemeanor under New York law. According to reports, Baldwin was pulled over by police after making an illegal U-turn. During the course of the stop, police determined that Baldwin was driving with a suspended license, and made the arrest. A court appearance on the charge is scheduled for October. This provides us with an opportunity to discuss the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO).
What is Aggravated Unlicensed Operation?
Section 509 of the New York Vehicle and Transportation Law states simply that no person may drive a motor vehicle on a public highway unless he is duly licensed to do so. The only exception is driving during a road test to obtain your license. If you drive and do not have a valid license, you are subject to a fine of up to $300, and/or imprisonment for up to 15 days. The penalty is less if the offense consists of merely failure to renew your license.
Aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, on the other hand, is a bit more serious. The offense is set forth in section 511, and includes several degrees. The basic offense is as follows:
“Aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree.
(a) A person is guilty of the offense of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree when such person operates a motor vehicle upon a public highway while knowing or having reason to know that such person’s license or privilege of operating such motor vehicle in this state or privilege of obtaining a license to operate such motor vehicle issued by the commissioner is suspended, revoked or otherwise withdrawn by the commissioner.
(b) Aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree is a misdemeanor. When a person is convicted of this offense, the sentence of the court must be: (i) a fine of not less than two hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars; or (ii) a term of imprisonment of not more than thirty days; or (iii) both such fine and imprisonment.”
There are various reasons why your license may have been suspended, revoked or withdrawn. It may be the result of an alleged failure to appear for a court date, your driving record, failure to pay fines, or for other reasons. The bottom line is that if you are driving with a suspended or revoked license, you may be charged, at a minimum, with third degree AUO.
Second degree AUO involves, at the outset, the same factors as AUO in the third degree – driving with a suspended, revoked or withdrawn license. The level of the offense may increase, however, based upon the reason for the suspension or revocation and/or your prior driving history. If your license was suspended or revoked as a result of the refusal to submit to a chemical test; a finding that you were a minor who consumed alcohol and drove; a conviction for DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DWAI (driving while ability impaired); or a mandatory suspension during the pendency of a DWI or DWAI case, then you can be charged with second degree AUO. That offense can also be charged if you have a prior conviction for aggravated AUO within the past 18 months, or if you have had three or more license suspensions for failure to appear, to answer, or to pay fines.
While AUO in the second degree is still a misdemeanor, both the fines and potential jail sentence are higher than third degree AUO.
First degree AUO consists of the elements of second degree AUO, plus added element that the current charge is DWI or DWAI; or that your license has been suspended on at least ten prior occasions; or that your license has been permanently revoked. First degree AUO is a class E felony, which carries a possible prison sentence of up to four years in prison.
Clearly, the penalties for AUO can be significant. In the case of Stephen Baldwin, charged with third degree AUO, we certainly can’t predict the outcome. However, all AUO charges have potential consequences, including fines and incarceration. But the mere fact that you have been charged does not mean your case is doomed. There are defenses available. So if you have been charged with AUO or any driving offense, contact an experienced New York criminal lawyer to defend your rights.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016