Five years after it was first introduced, a bill sponsored by state Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) would reclassify the penalties for driving while suspended—also known as aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO)—as a felony if it results in serious injury or death. Currently, AUO (VTL 511) in the second or third degree is only a misdemeanor. The bill now goes to the state Assembly.
“I am pleased the Senate passed this important proposal, which is the first step towards delivering justice for families victimized by reckless motorists. These dangerous drivers continue to kill because the current punishment does not fit the crime,” said Sen. Gianaris. “We must get serious about strengthening our laws before another life is lost at the hands of drivers who should not be behind the wheel.”
After an eight-year-old Woodside boy was struck and killed by a truck while walking to school in 2013, Sen. Gianaris introduced his legislation to further penalize drivers who cause similar tragedies. The driver, Mauricio Osorio-Palominos, was driving without a license when he killed Noshat Nahian. In January 2018, nearly five years later, 13-year-old Ridgewood resident Kevin Flores was killed by a driver operating an oil truck while riding his bike. The truck driver was operating the vehicle with a suspended license and also had three prior arrests.
Gianaris re-introduced the bill and on April 16 in the wake of Flores’s death and it passed unanimously in the Senate. If signed into law, the bill would make it a class E felony to seriously injure a person while driving with a suspended, revoked or no license and a class D felony to kill someone while driving with a suspended, revoked or no license. A class E felony carries a sentence of 18 months to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Class D felonies carry a sentence of two to seven years and a fine of up to $5,000. Some crimes also require an individual who is convicted to pay victim restitution and/or assorted fees for counseling, classes, or other programs or services as ordered by the judge.
A driver can be charged with AUO in the third degree if he/she is caught driving with a suspended or revoked license. Penalties include a fine of $200 to $500, and/or a jail sentence of up to 30 days. AUO in the second degree covers a wider range of infractions including prior license suspensions, alcohol infractions, repeat violations, and failing to pay fines or appear in court. The penalties include a fine of $500 to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
First-degree AUO is already a class E felony under the law, but primarily applies to drivers who have been caught operating a motor vehicle without a license while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or those with 10 or more suspensions/revocations on separate dates. As mentioned above, the penalties include up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Whether the bill passes or not, drivers facing a charge of driving while suspended (a.k.a. aggravated unlicensed operation/AUO) should speak with an attorney immediately. Contact the Rosenblum Law Firm at 888-883-5529 to schedule a free consultation now.