No. There is no "knowingly" requirement under NYS law here. You should have the owner register and plead not guilty. At court, explain what happened, show the prosecutor the new registration and it will get reduced.
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You desire to argue public policy fruitlessly. Essentially, if the law only held the owner liable, if he let his brother drive the car all the time and he never drove it, nobody could be ticketed if the owner did not know of the suspension. Fair or not, mens rea (criminal intent) is not required.
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