Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License in New York

Criminal charges for operating a vehicle during a license suspension or revocation.

By , Attorney

In New York, as in other states, you can lose your driving privileges for a number of different reasons. Suspension or revocation can result from certain convictions, driving offenses, and even failing to pay child support. Driving while your license is suspended or revoked is a crime.

This article explains the various reasons for license suspension or revocation and the penalties you'll face if you continue to drive on a suspended or revoked license in New York.

What Does It Mean to Have Your License Suspended or Revoked?

When your license is suspended or revoked, it generally means that the state has taken away your driving privileges. In other words, while the suspension or revocation is in place, you can't lawfully drive.

General Differences Between Suspension and Revocation

In many states, "revocation" and "suspension" are used synonymously, they mean the same thing. However, some states use the term "suspension" to mean a temporary loss of privileges and "revocation" to mean the permanent loss of privileges. But even in states where revocation is permanent, the driver can typically apply for reinstatement after a certain period of time.

Difference Between Suspensions and Revocations in New York

In New York, a suspension and revocation are the same in most respects. The difference between the two is how you get your driving privileges back. With a suspension, you need to pay a termination fee to regain driving privileges once the suspension period has ended. To get your driving privileges back following a revocation, you'll typically need to reapply for a license and might have to retake licensing tests.

What Are the Reasons for License Suspension or Revocation in New York?

Below are some of the more common reasons a driver might face a license suspension or revocation in New York.

Common Reasons for License Suspension in New York

A driver might be looking at a period of license suspension for any of the following reasons:

  • driving while ability impaired by alcohol (a charge that's less serious than a DWI but closely related)
  • violating the state's underage "zero tolerance law"
  • driving without insurance
  • getting too many traffic tickets within a certain period of time
  • violating the graduated license rules (for new drivers)
  • failing to pay a traffic ticket
  • failing to pay child support
  • failing to pay state taxes, and
  • neglecting to file an accident report.

Depending on the situation, a suspension will be for a definite or indefinite period of time. With an indefinite suspension, the driver will normally need to complete some condition (such as obtaining auto insurance) to lift the suspension.

Common Reasons for License Revocation in New York

License revocation is normally the result of some type of criminal conviction. Here are some of the most common reasons a driver's license might be revoked:

  • vehicular homicide or assault
  • leaving the scene of an accident (hit-and-run) without making a report of it
  • speed contests and racing
  • getting three violations for overtaking and passing a school bus within three years
  • abandoning a vehicle
  • assault against a traffic officer in New York City or Buffalo
  • certain drug crimes
  • driving while intoxicated (DWI)
  • refusing a chemical test in violation of the state's implied consent law

But this is just a partial list—there are many other reasons your license can be revoked.

What Are the Penalties for Driving While Suspended or Revoked in New York?

If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. The penalties for a conviction also depend on the circumstances.

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation in the Third Degree

In many situations, motorists who drive during a suspension or revocation will be charged with "third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation"—a third-degree misdemeanor. Aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree is the least serious of this category of offenses.

A driver can be convicted of this offense for operating a vehicle on a public highway "while knowing or having reason to know" that his or her driving privileges are suspended or revoked.

A conviction generally carries:

  • $200 to $500 in fines and/or,
  • up to 30 days in jail.

However, for certain large vehicles (with a rating of more than 18,000 pounds), the conviction fines are $500 to $1,500.

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation in the Second Degree

In certain circumstances, a driver can be charged with a more serious offense, "second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation." Aggravated unlicensed operation is in the second degree if:

  • the driver was convicted of aggravated unlicensed operation within the preceding 18 months
  • the suspension or revocation was for an implied consent violation
  • the suspension or revocation was for a DWI conviction, or
  • the driver has had three or more suspensions related to the failure to appear in court or pay a ticket fine.

A conviction for this offense is a second-degree misdemeanor and typically carries:

  • a fine of $500 to $1,000, and
  • seven to 180 days in jail.

However, where a second-degree unlicensed driving conviction is based on having a prior within the past 18 months, the penalties are:

  • a minimum fine of $500, and
  • up to 180 days in jail.

For either type of conviction, the penalties might be less serious if the judge grants probation.

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation in the First Degree

Aggravated unlicensed operation in the first degree is a class E felony and the most serious of the offenses in this category. A driver can be convicted of this offense if driving during a suspension or revocation and:

  • under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • the driver has had ten or more suspensions related to the failure to appear in court or pay a ticket fine
  • the revocation was permanent, and
  • the driver held a conditional license (restricted driving privileges).

A first-degree unlicensed operation conviction carries:

  • $500 to $5,000 in fines
  • up to four years in prison.

How do You Reinstate a Revoked or Suspended License in New York?

The period of time your license is suspended or revoked depends on the circumstances. The procedure for license reinstatement depends on the reasons for the loss of driving privileges and whether your license was "suspended" or "revoked."

License Reinstatement Following a Suspension in New York

For most suspensions, you need to pay a "suspension termination fee" before you can get your license back. The fees are usually $50 or $100.

However, depending on the reason for the suspension, you might also have to complete some other task before you can get your license back, such as paying child support, taking care of a traffic ticket, or paying previously unpaid taxes.

License Reinstatement Following a Revocation in New York

To reinstate your license following a revocation, you generally must request a new license from the DMV and pay a civil penalty and reapplication fee. The civil penalties normally range from $125 to $750, depending on the reason for the revocation. Reapplication fees range from about $65 to $120, depending on the type of license.

Legal Help for Charges of Driving While Suspended or Revoked

If you're arrested for driving with a suspended or revoked license, it's a good idea to get in contact with an experienced defense attorney. A qualified lawyer can tell you how the law applies in your situation and help you decide on how best to handle your case.

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