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Obtaining an Occupational Driver’s License in Texas

Updated: Feb 7, 2023 @ 8:56 pm

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If your Texas driver’s license has been suspended, revoked, or denied, you may still be able to obtain limited driving privileges. Texas offers what is called an Occupational Driver’s License (ODL), a restricted license that authorizes the holder to drive at certain times of the day for specific purposes.

An ODL is not a right; a person must obtain a court order before the Texas Department of Public Safety will issue an Occupational Driver’s License, and even then it may still be denied depending on your circumstances.

Do You Have an “Essential Need”?

The purpose of an ODL is to enable a person without a regular license to drive if he or she can demonstrate an “essential need” to the court. The most common essential needs are the ability to work, go to school, or perform necessary household duties. For example, if you have a job that requires you to commute, that may constitute an essential need justifying an ODL.

Obtaining an ODL

As explained above, only a judge can authorize an ODL. A petition for an ODL can be made before any justice of the peace or the county or district court where the applicant lives, or the trial court where the applicant originally lost his or her driver’s license.

The court does not issue the actual ODL. Instead, if the judge determines you have an essential need and are not otherwise disqualified, he or she will issue an order that the applicant must present to the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

The applicant may use the court order as a temporary ODL for a period of no more than 45 days from the date that the order takes effect. If this 45-day period expires before the applicant receives an ODL, he or she may not drive until receiving the ODL.

What Disqualifies Me from Receiving an ODL?

Even if you demonstrate an essential need, the court and the DPS may still deny you an ODL for a number of reasons, including:

  • Failure to pay child support;
  • You have a physical or mental disability;
  • You have already received two ODLs in the past ten years following a court conviction; or
  • You are subject to a mandatory waiting period following a past DWI conviction.

It should also be noted that an ODL cannot be used to legally operate a commercial motor vehicle. There may also be cases where an ODL is unnecessary because you can seek reinstatement of your original driver’s license.

An experienced Houston DWI attorney can advise you on the best way to seek restoration of your driving privileges. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need help applying for an Occupational Driver’s License.

Houston DWI Lawyer Tad A Nelson is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the TBLS.

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