What You Need to Know about Occupational Licenses in Texas

What is an Occupational Driver's License?

If your driver's license has been suspended in Texas or any other state that participates in the Driver's License Compact (the Compact) and share information about suspensions then you will need to obtain an occupational license in order to legally drive.

An occupational license in the state of Texas will allow you to drive under certain restricted conditions:

  • One kind of occupational license allows you to drive for an unlimited amount of hours at any time of the day or night, but you must maintain an ignition interlock device installed on every car that you own.

  • Another kind of occupational license allows you to drive without an interlock, but the number of hours and places you drive will be restricted.

Several other restrictions may apply.

Eligibility for an Occupational License

Anyone whose license is suspended in Texas, whether suspended through the Department of Public Safety or through the Compact, is eligible to receive an occupational license as long as there is no active suspension arising out of a physical or mental determination.

However, just because you are eligible for an occupational license does not mean that you will receive one. In order for you to receive an occupational license , a judge must sign an order granting the license and the proper forms, fees and documentation must be sent in to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Also, you cannot receive an occupational license for a Commercial Driver's License.

Applying for an Occupational License

There are two basic documents that need to be drafted in order to obtain an occupational license. The first is called a Petition for an Occupational License and the second is called an Order Granting an occupational license. The Petition asks the judge to sign the order, and the order is the document that sets the conditions under which a person may drive.< /span>

In addition to these documents, the petition must be accompanied by an SR-22 certificate, a special form from your insurance company that certifies that you carry insurance, and in most counties, several other documents. Most counties require a certified abstract of your driving history, for instance. The county-specific requirements change from time-to-time, so beware of old how-to documents. Some counties also require a letter from an employer, cover sheets, and waivers from a district attorney. All counties and courts, however, require the payment of a filing fee. Most county courts charge about $250 for the application, but the exact fee varies.

Also, depending on the specific circumstances, there may be other documents required. For instance, if your driver's license is suspended, you will also need to have a judge sign an authorization to take the driving test. If you have an active DWI conviction suspension, you will need to provide proof that an interlock device is installed in every vehicle that you maintain. Alternatively, if you drive for work, you will need to submit proof that the employer is aware of your interlock restriction in order to allow an interlock exception for company-owned vehicles.

What restrictions will apply

If your license is suspended after a conviction for any offense in Penal Code Sections 49.04-49.09 (those are the drinking and driving related offenses), then you will be required to maintain an ignition interlock device on every vehcile that you own or operate, with one limited exception (the employer-owned vehicles, and only if those vehicles and your Order meet special requirements). The good news is that this type of Occupational License is not subject to hour and place restrictions.

If your license is suspended for any other reason, there is no interlock requirement, but there will be hour and place restrictions. The specific restrictions depend on what your "essential needs" are. Interestingly, if you have "a need" to drive for work, you have an essential need.

There are other restrictions that may apply, depending on the case. For instance, if your license has been suspended because of a violation under Chapter 524 or 724 of the Texas Transportation Code (substance-related pre-conviction suspensions), the the judge will require the petitioner to attend a program approved by the court that is designed to provide counseling and rehabilitation services to persons for alcohol dependence.

Some judges will place restrictions that are not specifically discussed in the Transportation Code, but the legality of these additional restrictions is dubious.

Where to file

If the applicant's driver's license has been automatically suspended or canceled under this chapter for a conviction of an offense under the laws of the State of Texas, then the person must file with the clerk of the court in which the person was convicted.

If the license has been suspended for any other reason, then the person must file with the clerk of a justice, county, or district court with jurisdiction that includes the precinct or county in which:

  1. the person resides, or

  2. ;the offense occurred for which the license was suspended.

I do not usually advise that people file in Justice of the Peace Courts.

After the Order is Signed

After the order granting the occupational license is signed, a certified copy of the order must be delivered to the Department of Public Safety. Along with the certified copy, DPS requires a $10 occupational license fee and a copy of the SR-22. Some people may also owe driver's license reinstatement fees that must be paid. The paper order is good only for 45 days, so do not delay in sending in this paperwork to the DPS.

Many occupational licenses require that you carry a log book. If your license carries this restriction, make sure that you record all trips that you take in the log book according to the rules of the log book.

Copyright © 2017 Paul Saputo, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on Jan 9, 2017.