The penalties in New York for being unlicensed and driving in New York can differ depending on the exact offense that the driver was issued. Per section 509 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Code, to drive a vehicle in legally in New York State the operator must have a valid driver's license.
A violation of section 509 of the VTC is punishable by a fine of not less than $75 nor more than $300, or by imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or by both fine and jail time. If the person is cited for not renewing a license and it was valid within 60 days, the fine shall not be more than $40. A ticket for not having a valid license with you is called unlicensed operation in NYS.
If instead a person was found to be driving with a suspended or revoked license, this is a criminal violation and there are mandatory fines ranging from $200 up to $5000. The driver may also face mandatory imprisonment or probation, and seizure and possible forfeiture of the vehicle being driving at the time of the citation.
Being stopped for aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO), driving while your license is under suspension or revocation, can be found to be 3rd degree, 2nd degree or 1st degree, depending upon if you were also stopped for other violations and what your original suspension was for. The lower the degree, the higher the fines and penalties for the offense, thus 1st degree is the most severe violation of the three.
For more information about this offense, contact the NYS DMV.