If you are charged with a DWI in Texas, you face losing your driving privileges. For many people, this can impact their ability to maintain employment or continue their education. If you are in this situation, you may be able to obtain an occupational driver's license (or “ODL”). An ODL is a restricted license that allows you to drive to work, school, and to perform essential household duties. An occupational driver's license allows you to drive with restrictions even though your license has been suspended or revoked.
You must meet certain eligibility requirements to obtain an ODL. ODLs are only issued for operation of non-commercial vehicles. If you have a commercial driver's license (CDL), you cannot request an ODL to be allowed to legally drive a commercial vehicle. If your license was suspended or revoked due to unpaid child support or for a medical reason, you will be ineligible for an ODL. You may be able to obtain an ODL if your license was suspended or revoked for certain driving offenses such as driving while intoxicated.
An ODL may be issued via a court order. You may petition the Justice of the Peace where you reside, or the court with jurisdiction over your charge may issue an occupational driver's license. A court may hold a hearing to assess a person's driving record, need to obtain an ODL and any other evidence presented to the court by the petitioner. To obtain an ODL, a petitioner must prove that they have an “essential need” for driving such as needing to attend work, school or perform household duties.
An individual that does not have proof that they have an essential need to drive may be able to obtain an ODL if they can provide proof of financial responsibility and proof that they have had an interlock device installed in their primary vehicle. An interlock device requires testing of a person's breath for alcohol in order for them to start and operate the vehicle.
Once a signed court order is obtained, it must be submitted to the Department of Public Safety for the license to be issued. The following documents must be submitted for an ODL to be issued:
- Certified copies of the petition and order granting permission to drive with an ODL
- A financial responsibility insurance certificate
- Payment of the ODL fee and a license reinstatement fee
An ODL may be issued for a maximum of two years. The typical time period granted for an occupational license is one year or less. There may be a waiting period for an ODL to be issued by the Department of Public Safety if your license was suspended for an alcohol or drug-related offense unless the court orders a waiver of the waiting period.
Once an ODL is issued, you must abide by the restrictions of the court order. A copy of the court order must be kept in your vehicle at all times. If you are pulled over, you must present a copy of your driver's license along with the order granting the ODL to the officer who pulled you over.
Penalties for Violating Occupational License Conditions
An ODL may be issued with conditions that you must follow during the time period that you are driving with the occupational license. An order granting an ODL will typically list the time periods when you are allowed to drive and the areas or routes where you are restricted to driving. An exception applies if your vehicle has been equipped with an interlock device.
A Texas court may order you to attend a program that is approved by the court that is focused on providing counseling and rehabilitation to drive with an ODL. A court may also order you to submit to drug and alcohol testing and submit to supervision through a local community corrections office.
Failure to comply with requirements in the court order that granted you permission to drive with an ODL may result in revocation of an occupational driver's license. You can also be charged with a class B misdemeanor if you:
- Operate a motor vehicle in violation of a restriction imposed on the license; or
- Fail to have in your possession while driving a certified copy of the court order granting you permission to drive with an occupational license
An occupational license will be revoked upon conviction of this charge, and you may also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $2,000, serve up to 180 days in jail, or both.
Consult Austin, Texas attorney Jason S. English
If your license has been suspended and you have questions about obtaining an occupational driver's license in Texas, contact Austin DWI and lawyer Jason S. English online or call (512) 454-7548 for more information.