DWI AFTERMATH: Occupational Licenses in Texas

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Occupational Licenses in Texas - An occupational driver’s license is a special, restricted license which allows a person whose license has been suspended to drive a non-commercial vehicle to work, to school, or to perform essential household duties. However, before even considering an occupational license in Texas, you have fifteen days from the date of the notice of suspension (which you should have received from the arresting officer) to request an Administrative License Revocation Hearing to contest your license suspension. If you allow that fifteen days to pass without requesting an Administrative License Revocation Hearing, you will not be allowed to contest the suspension.  

If you contest the suspension, but your license is still suspended, or if you do not contest the suspension and your license is suspended, you may qualify for an occupational driver’s license. An experienced Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI attorney can help you determine the best course of action following a Texas DWI arrest, and can possibly help you obtain a Texas occupational license, or, at the very least, to help you decide whether you qualify for an occupational driver’s license. In order to obtain a Texas occupational driver’s license, you must first secure a court order, authorizing the Texas Department of Public Safety to issue the license. This can be a complex process, which takes weeks to complete. First, you will need to qualify under the “essential need to drive,” conditions, including:

  • You must need to drive to do your job;
  • You must need to drive to get to and from your job or to and from school, or
  • You must need to drive to perform essential household duties.

You will not qualify for an occupational driver’s license if:

  • The judge does not believe you have an essential need to drive;
  • You want an occupational driver’s license to drive a commercial motor vehicle;
  • Your license was suspended for failure to pay child support;
  • Your license was suspended due to a mental or physical disability;
  • You have received two occupational driver’s licenses in the past ten years following Texas DWI or Texas DUI convictions;
  • You have a “hard suspension” waiting period, due to a prior Texas DWI or Texas DUI arrest or conviction, or
  • The judge is worried about public safety. 

An occupational driver’s license is also known as an essential need license, and you will have a much easier time obtaining an occupational license with an experienced Houston DWI lawyer by your side. 

When Does a Texas Occupational License Take Effect? If the judge grants your request for a Texas occupational license, make sure you read the Order to know when it goes into effect. You are allowed to use a certified copy of the Order for ODL to drive for 45 days once the ODL goes into effect. If you do not receive an actual Occupational Driver’s License from DPS prior to the 45th day, you must return to court to obtain an Amended Order for ODL which extends the deadline. In general, an Order for ODL takes effect as soon as the judge signs it unless you are subject to a waiting period, known as a “hard suspension.” If your license suspension was the result of failing a blood or breath test or refusing a blood or breath test, the occupational driver’s license cannot take effect for:

  • 90 days following your license suspension if, during the five years prior to your arrest your driver’s license was suspended due to an alcohol or drug-related arrest;
  • 180 days following your license suspension if, during the five years prior to your arrest your driver’s license was suspended due to a conviction for DWI, Intoxication Assault or Manslaughter, or
  • 365 days following your license suspension if, during the five years prior to your arrest your driver’s license was suspended due to a second or subsequent conviction for DWI, Intoxication Assault or Manslaughter.

If you took a breathalyzer test, and the results were 0.08 percent or above, your driver’s license will likely be suspended for 90 days. If you refused a breathalyzer test, your driver’s license will likely be suspended for 180 days. If you refused a breathalyzer test, then had a subsequent blood test which revealed a BAC above 0.08 percent, your driver’s license suspension could be even longer than 180 days.

The Process of Requesting an Occupational License in Texas - Having a Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI lawyer by your side can make the process of applying for a Texas occupational license considerably easier, likely ending in a better outcome as well. You must apply for your occupational license in the district or county court where you live or to the court of original jurisdiction where your offense occurred. Once your application for an occupational license is received, it will be determined whether you are eligible for the license.

If you are eligible, a court order will be issued which requires you to submit an application to the Texas Department of Public Safety. This means that once you receive the court order which verifies your eligibility for an occupational license, you must then complete the process through DPS. The court order is not your occupational license, although it can be used as your occupational license for up to 30 days from the date of issuance until DPS issues your occupational license.

Once you receive the court order, you will submit that order, the occupational license fee, a signed verification form, reinstatement fees, and SR-22, and a letter from your employer and from you. The letter from your employer must be on letterhead, and must state your position at work, and the hours you must drive for employment reasons. The letter from you, must state the reasons you are petitioning for an occupational driver’s license (work, school, necessary errands).  Your full name, date of birth and driver’s license number should be on every document submitted.

The reinstatement fees associated with your Texas occupational license will depend, to some extent, on your specific circumstances and on your age. You will pay a $125 reinstatement fee for failing a chemical test or a chemical test refusal—regardless of age or circumstances. You will be assessed annual surcharges under the Driver Responsibility Program which could be as high as $1,000-$2,000 for a period of three years. Occupational driver’s licenses in Texas are typically issued for one year or less, although in some instances the occupational driver’s license could be issued for as long as two years. If everything goes well, and you are issued an occupational driver’s license in Texas, you are only permitted to operate a vehicle within the terms of the court order—and the court order must always be kept in your vehicle.

Texas Department of Public Safety Driver Responsibility Indigency/Incentive Programs - Perhaps you qualify for a Texas occupational license, but you are unable to pay the surcharges necessary to obtain the license. Under the Texas DPS Driver Responsibility Indigency/Incentive Program, if you have a very low income and meet certain other requirements, DPS can reduce your surcharge amounts—and allow you to continue driving while you make payments on the surcharge amount.

Under the Indigency Program, the surcharges are waived, while under the Incentive Program, the surcharges are reduced. The Indigency Program applies to those living at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, while the Incentive Program applies to those living above 125 percent of the federal poverty level, but below 300 percent of the federal poverty level (as defined annually by the United States Department of Health and Human Services).

Getting Help After Your Texas DWI or Texas DUI - It is vitally important that you seek the services of an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer from Sullo & Sullo who offers Houston criminal lawyer free consultations. The Houston criminal attorneys at Sullo & Sullo will work hard on your behalf to help you avoid Harris County criminal records or end up in Harris County jail. It could be extremely beneficial to contact an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer from Sullo & Sullo today.

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