The difference between driving without a license and aggravated unlicensed operation

Many people call our NYS traffic ticket defense law office seeking counsel in driving without a license. The first question we ask them is whether they were charged with Unlicensed Operation, NY VTL Sec. 509(1), or aggravated unlicensed operation, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec. 511. The difference between the two charges 

is like night and day. Driving without a license, VTL 509, is an infraction, and aggravated unlicensed operation, NY VTL 511, is a crime. The difference between the two are the ELEMENTS of the violation.

Elements of a violation are what the state must prove before a person is found of the crime or infraction. The elements of NY VTL 509, unlicensed operation, is that you drove on a public road without a license to do so. The elements of NY VTL 511, aggravated unlicensed operation, is that you at one time had a valid license, the State of New York suspended your license, you knew or should have known that it was suspended, and you nonetheless drove on a public highway.

The state considers diving under suspension much more egregious because they told you not to drive and you drove anyway, whereby comparison driving without a license simply means that you failed to get one before driving, or that your license had expired.

Typical situations where people are charged with driving without a license is when they are from foreign countries but driving in NY. With a passport or a Visa a license from another country is valid to drive in NY, however many police officers do not know. We routinely get our client’s case dismissed in those situations. Other typical situations is when the motorist failed to timely renew their driver’s license. When retained we assist our clients in renewing prior to the court date and most often get that charge dismissed as well.

Driving while a license or privileges are suspended is a much more complex case and requires a much higher volume and degree of our legal intellectual property of knowledge, acumen, reputation and acuity. Just to start, there are over 100 reasons why a motorist’s license or privilege to drive in NY has been suspended. Many reasons have nothing to do with driving. Issues such as failing to pay child support and NYS taxes trigger license or privilege suspensions. I say license or privilege suspension because even if you never had a NYS license, or a license from any state for that matter, the NYS DMV can nonetheless suspend your right to drive in NY State.

Typical reasons for a NYS license / privilege suspension include failing to answer traffic tickets, failure to pay DMV assessments, failure to pay traffic court fines, and failure to pay suspension lift fees.

It is important to get an aggravated unlicensed operation charge dismissed. This is because it is a misdemeanor, i.e., a crime, and not an infraction. Key to getting the AUO charge dismissed is to clear the underlying suspensions. When clients hire us for a VTL 511 AUO case, we pull for them their NYS driving record, figure out why they are suspended and the method in which to clear the suspension or suspensions. We then provide them with step-by-step, easy to understand and digest, instructions on how to clear the underlying suspension

The vast majority of our clients charged with aggravated unlicensed operation get the charge dismissed.

If you have been charged with unlicensed operation, aggravated unlicensed operation, or any NY State traffic violation, we know that you may have questions or concerns. If that is the case, feel free to reach out and contact us anytime 24 / 7. We talk to people like who have traffic related issues and problems every day, and we’d love to answer any questions that you may have!