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Austin Occupational Driver's License Suspension Attorneys

Understanding the importance and process of obtaining an occupational driver's license (ODL) in Texas is important following a license suspension. Losing your driving privileges can significantly impact your daily life, from getting to work to fulfilling essential household duties. Seeking an occupational driver's license can be an effective temporary solution to many of your travel-related concerns, allowing you to maintain a semblance of normalcy and fulfill your responsibilities. 

What Is An Occupational Driver License?

An occupational driver license, often referred to as an essential need license, is a special type of restricted license. This license is issued in Texas when someone’s regular driver's license has been revoked, denied, or suspended for certain offenses, excluding cases related to medical reasons or past due child support. If you receive this kind of restricted license, it will authorize you to operate a non-commercial motor vehicle for specific purposes: work, essential household duties, or school-related activities. It's important to note that this license cannot be used for commercial driving purposes. 

Applying For An ODL

Securing an ODL begins with obtaining a court order that authorizes the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to issue the license. Before you can apply for an ODL, certain prerequisites must be met:

  • Certified Abstract Type AR Driving Record: Obtainable from the Texas Department of Public Safety, this complete driving record is a key document in the application process.
  • Proof of Ignition Interlock Device: In cases involving drug or alcohol-related offenses, proof of installation of an ignition interlock device might be required.

Once you have taken these proactive steps, you’ll also need to secure a comprehensive driving record report from the DPS, and you’ll need to purchase your driving record either online or by mail, following specific procedures detailed by the DPS. 

Then, your attorney can help you to file your petition in the appropriate court, which could be the Justice of the Peace, county, or district court in your area of residence, or the court where the offense occurred. It’s crucial to speak with an ODL attorney about any specific court’s requirements, as they can vary. For instance, the Travis County Law Library provides a free example petition, but it may not be suitable for all courts. Upon reviewing your petition and favorably determining your eligibility, the court will issue a signed order. This order is a necessary step but is not the license itself.

After receiving the court order, you must submit it along with all other required documents to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for the actual license issuance. The required items include:

  1. A certified copy of the petition and court order.
  2. A Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22).
  3. Payment of the occupational license fee and any reinstatement fees.

The court order can serve as a temporary license for 45 days while your request is processed. An occupational license is usually issued for a year or less, with a maximum length of two years. For a license beyond one year, additional court approval is needed.

All documents, including fees, should be sent in one package to the Texas Department of Public Safety at the address provided in the guidelines. It's important to include personal identification details on each document for accurate processing. Processing time can take up to 21 business days.

What Exactly Is A Petition For Occupational Driver’s License?

A Petition for Occupational Driver’s License is a formal request submitted to a Texas court for obtaining an Occupational Driver's License (ODL). An ODL is a specific type of license granted to individuals whose regular driver's license has been suspended, canceled, or revoked. This license is designed for those who need to drive for essential purposes such as work, school, or performing necessary household duties.

When preparing this petition, the petitioner must provide their personal details, including home and mailing addresses, phone number, email, date of birth, and the last four digits of their Social Security Number. The form also requires the petitioner to detail the specific reasons for their current license suspension, such as DUI (Driving Under Influence) charges, refusal to provide a breath or blood sample, or other related offenses.

Illustrating One’s Essential Need For Driving

The petitioner must demonstrate their essential need for an ODL, including the necessity to drive for work, to transport family members, or for other critical reasons. They need to provide their work schedule, employer’s details, and other relevant information. The petitioner will also need to request a specific driving schedule, indicating the days and times they need to drive.

If applicable, the petitioner can request exemptions from certain requirements such as the installation of an interlock device (a breathalyzer connected to the vehicle's ignition system) or substance/drug abuse counseling, usually required in cases of DUI offenses.

Finally, the petitioner must sign the form, declaring under penalty of perjury that the information provided is true and correct. This can be done either through an unsworn declaration or notarization.

What Is An SR-22 Certificate?

An SR-22 is not an insurance policy but is, instead, a document provided by an insurance company to prove that a driver carries the minimum required liability insurance. In Texas, this is especially relevant under circumstances such as a suspended driving privilege due to a car crash, multiple convictions for driving without insurance, or a civil judgment against a driver. Essentially, an SR-22 certificate acts as a guarantee to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that a driver is properly insured.

Filling out a form for ODL

Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements

In Texas, the law mandates specific minimum liability coverage amounts:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury or death of one person per accident.
  • $60,000 for bodily injury or death of more than one person per accident.
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident.

These are the least amounts of insurance a driver must have, and an SR-22 must certify that these requirements are met before an ODL will be issued. 

To get an SR-22, you’ll need to contact an authorized insurance provider. If you don't own a vehicle, you should inquire about a non-owner SR-22 insurance policy. It's important to maintain your SR-22 as required, as failure to do so can result in the suspension of your driving privileges and vehicle registration.

Denial Of Issuance

There are specific circumstances wherein an occupational license may not be issued. These may involve cases in which a driver has intent to operate a commercial vehicle, medical incapability, or issues with delinquent child support. In such cases, a license request will be denied.

Navigating the process of getting a Texas occupational driver's license can be complicated. Seeking guidance from a knowledgeable Texas occupational driver's license lawyer can provide clarity and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome instead of a denial. 

Specific Legal Considerations And Restrictions

Eligibility For Occupational License

Seeking an ODL is not a valid option if you’ve never had a driver’s license or if your most recent license has been expired for more than two years. In such cases, you will need to undergo driving exams or complete a driver’s education course to obtain a regular license. Certain other conditions may also render you initially ineligible for an occupational driver's license in Texas. These concerns include:

  • Loss of driving privileges due to mental or physical disability.
  • Suspension for not paying child support.
  • Having two occupational licenses due to convictions in the past 10 years.
  • A "hard suspension" period after refusing or failing a blood or breath test for alcohol or drug charges.

Understanding Waiting Periods

There are specific waiting periods before an Order for ODL takes effect, especially if a suspension is related to alcohol or drug offenses. These periods can range from 90 to 365 days, depending on the nature and history of the offenses in question.

Inside view of a car driving on a freeway

Occupational Driver’s License Hearing And Related Court Requirements

When your license is suspended for an intoxication offense, the prosecutor is notified of your ODL hearing and may present evidence. For other suspension reasons, only you will present evidence. The court will examine your petition, driving record, and any evidence of your need to drive. If convicted of an intoxication offense, you might not need to prove essential need if you’re restricted to a vehicle with an ignition interlock device, although installation proof is mandatory.

Court Order Specifications

If your petition is successful, the court’s ODL order will specify:

  • Allowed days and times for driving (typically up to 4 hours daily, extendable to 12 hours).
  • Reasons for travel (work, school, doctor’s appointments, etc.).
  • Allowed areas or routes.
  • Additional restrictions like ignition interlock device installation, drug/alcohol testing, and counseling programs.
  • Effective date and validity period.

Post-Court Actions

After the court grants you an occupational driver's license, don’t forget to:

  • Carry a certified copy of the court order and SR-22 proof of financial responsibility.
  • Send a certified copy of the petition and order to DPS.
  • Pay the occupational license fee and any reinstatement fees.
  • For the first 45 days, the court order alone serves as your license; thereafter, carry the DPS-issued license as well.

Violating any term of the order, including driving without the court order, will be classified as a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Conviction will lead to revocation of the license and driving privileges for the remaining suspension period.

With this said, if your circumstances change, necessitating different driving needs, you can file a Motion to Modify the Order, explaining why the changes are essential. This effort can help you to avoid violating the original order’s terms. The court will assess if there's a good cause for modification and will grant or deny this request at its discretion. 

Seeking Professional Legal Assistance For Your Occupational Driver's License

The legal complexities surrounding an ODL application cannot be overstated. Each case presents unique challenges and legal intricacies, requiring a tailored approach. A Texas Occupational Driver's License lawyer’s knowledge and experience may be invaluable when it comes to:

  • Evaluating one’s eligibility for an ODL.
  • Assisting in gathering and preparing necessary documentation.
  • Representing the client in court proceedings.
  • Advising on compliance with Texas transportation laws.
  • Navigating any complications that arise during the application process.

If you are requiring legal assistance, know that criminal defense lawyers at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC are here to help. Our team of experienced ODL attorneys understands the intricacies of Texas driving laws and can provide you with the necessary guidance and representation to handle this process effectively. You can reach us at (512) 991-0576 or get in touch with us online today.  

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