Occupational License (ODL)

What Is an Occupational License (ODL)?

Has your license been suspended? Too many tickets? A DWI or other alcohol or drug related offenses? Or are you just having a hard time navigating the travails of DPS?

The impact of not being able to operate a vehicle can overwhelm you. In our mobile society, a vehicle isn’t always a luxury, it can be a necessity.

If this is your situation, you may qualify for an occupational license in Texas. An occupational driver’s license allows you to drive legally while your regular license is suspended, but only in very specific circumstances.

Sometimes, a driver’s license is paramount to your world. You have to work to eat and work is driving a vehicle or commuting to and from work. Maybe you are a stay at home mom or day that needs to get kids to their schools and after-school activities. Or perhaps you are a student and have to commute to class or school. Losing your right to drive can be devastating.

If this sounds like your situation, you may be able to get an occupational license in Texas. This can be a lifeline when your Texas driver’s license status is suspended or revoked. The occupational driver’s license is also termed an “essential need” license and is only issued to individuals who have lost their driving privileges for certain offenses and can show that they need to drive to keep a job, get to school or keep a household going.

Who Can Get an Occupational License?

An occupational driver’s license is a special type of restricted license that must be ordered by the courts. The Department of Public Safety MAY then issue an ODL to a Texas driver whose driving privileges have been suspended or revoked or who was denied a license for certain offenses.

In some instances, you may not be able to get an ODL for medical reasons or child support delinquency. Each circumstance is unique and takes an attorney who knows how the process works.

How Do You Show Essential Need?

Generally, if you lose your Texas driver’s license eligibility, you can’t drive. To qualify for this exception in Texas, you need a profession to help you jump through the hoops. You cannot just go into the Department of Public Safety and pick one up. The DPS will issue you an occupational driver’s license only if ordered to do so by a court.

First, an application must be filed with the court. We submit a petition to the court identifying the reasons you lost your driving privileges and defining your need. You can qualify for an occupational license only if you prove to the court that you require driving privileges to do your regular job, to get to and from work or school, or to do essential household duties.

Once your petition is approved, you take the order granting you an occupational license to the DPS. You’ll need to submit a certified copy of the petition as well as a certified copy of the court order granting the occupational license. You will also need to pay a license fee and another fee for reinstatement of driving privileges.

Assuming all goes well, you will get your license in the mail in three to four weeks. In the meantime, Texas law allows you to use a certified copy of the order for an ODL in place of a driver’s license for 45 days after the order takes effect, a date that will be written on the order. If your ODL does not arrive from the DPS before the 45th day, we will need to see if DPS had an objection and you may have to stop driving. You will need to wait until you get the ODL in the mail or return to court to get another order extending the deadline.

Can a Petition Be Rejected?

A petition for an occupational license can be rejected for many reasons. If you lost your license because of child support arrears or a physical or mental disability, the court won’t grant your petition. Likewise, you will not get the order if the court is not convinced you have an essential need for a license. Occupational licenses are available only for personal driving, not commercial, so if you need a commercial license to meet your essential need, your petition won’t be successful. In addition, there is a limit on how many ODLs you can get. If you have already received two ODLs in the past decade, you aren’t eligible.

Further, if your offense includes a “hard suspension” waiting period because of a prior conviction, you must wait out the time before you get an ODL. While a court order approving you for an ODL generally takes effect when it is signed by the court, hard suspensions delay it. Various alcohol and drug-related driving offenses will result in a hard suspension. For example, a hard suspension occurs if your license was suspended because of your refusal to take a blood or breath test, or due to the fact that you failed the test. You’ll have to wait 90 days after the suspension if this is the second alcohol or drug-related arrest within five years. That period doubles if, in the prior five years, your license was suspended for a conviction for driving while intoxicated, assault while intoxication or manslaughter. You’ll have to wait a full year if you have had two or more convictions within the past five years.

Driving with an Occupational License in Texas

Driving with an occupational license is a privilege you won’t want to lose, so take care to follow the rules. They are more restricted than the rules for driving with a regular license. Remember that you can’t drive a commercial vehicle, and you must keep your insurance up to date. If it lapses, the DPS will revoke your occupational driver’s license.

You will need to document your right to drive. Keep your occupational license in the car when you are driving in case you are stopped. Also, keep a certified copy of the court order for ODL and proof of insurance with you. Driving without the court order is classified as a Class B misdemeanor in Texas.

Be sure you stick to the places and times you listed on your petition. The court order for the license allows you to drive only to those places at the times you provided. If your needs change, for example, your work hours change and alter your commute time, go back to court to get the order modified. Driving at times or to places other than those listed is also a Class B misdemeanor.

Call us today if you need help. The cost of an ENL can vary, depending on the circumstances. But, the cost of not being able to drive can far outweigh the cost of obtaining your privilege to drive.