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texas occupational drivers license

Occupational Driver License in Texas

What Is an Occupational Driver License in Texas?

An occupational driver license (ODL) or “occupational license” is a judicially-issued permit to drive a vehicle in Texas after a person’s license has been suspended.

A driver license suspension is a collateral consequence that can stem from a DWI arrest or conviction or a conviction on a drug charge. Our attorneys regularly help individuals obtain occupational drivers licenses so they can legally drive after their license has been suspended. You may hear these referred to as “essential need licenses,” but you are no longer required to prove an essential need in Texas. In most cases, we are able to obtain the occupational license without the client showing up to court.

Why Would I Need an Occupational License?

Licenses are commonly suspended for refusing to provide a breath or blood specimen after being arrested for suspicion of DWI, for providing a specimen over the legal limit, or for being convicted of DWI or possession of drugs.  An occupational driver license would allow you to drive after one of these events.

What Is an ALR and Can I Save My License?

An ALR is an Administrative License Revocation. An ALR hearing is an administrative process by which an individual who is arrested for driving while intoxicated or another intoxication-related offense seeks to prevent his or her driver’s license from being suspended. As mentioned, a suspension can occur from either a refusal to submit to a blood or breath test or by providing a specimen that results in a 0.08 or greater blood alcohol concentration. It’s important to point out that if your license has been suspended because of a DWI arrest, you only have 15 days to request a hearing contesting the license suspension. If DPS prevails at the ALR hearing, as it commonly does in the North Texas area, you will want to apply for an occupational license.

Are All Occupational Drivers Licenses the Same?

There are primarily two kinds of occupational licenses: Pre-conviction occupational licenses (also known as occupational driver’s licenses, ODLs, or essential needs licenses) and post-conviction occupational licenses.

What Are Pre-Conviction Occupational Licenses?

A pre-conviction occupational driver license is what many people think of as an “essential needs license” because Texas law requires that you set out the reasons you need the license and then receive approval from a civil court to drive your vehicle. Pre-conviction occupational licenses are obtained through civil courts such as County Courts at Law or Justice of the Peace Courts.

Prior to a conviction for an intoxication-related offense, and during the period of an administrative license suspension stemming from a refusal to provide a breath or blood specimen after a DWI stop or a person providing a specimen of a .08 or greater, an Essential Needs License may be obtained pursuant to Section 521.241 et seq.

In order to obtain an Essential Needs License, the individual must be able to set forth the reasons that the individual would need to drive for work, school, or for the performance of essential household duties. Additionally, an Ignition Interlock Device is necessary. Finally, Texas Administrative Code Rule 15.7 requires a person to obtain and maintain SR-22 Insurance while the occupational license is in effect. Once the court order is received by DPS, a license will be issued and the expiration date will be on the face of the license. It will be the earlier of the following dates: (1) when the suspension ends, or (2) first anniversary of the court order granting the occupational license, unless the applicant submitted the additional fee for the subsequent year.

What Are the Requirements for a Pre-Conviction Occupational License?

Pre-conviction occupational licenses have a number restrictions and conditions. For instance, you will be required to obtain an SR-22 insurance policy. SR-22 policies may be purchased as stand-alone policies or as riders to existing policies. (We recommend you get a stand-alone policy from someone other than your primary carrier.) Another condition of a pre-conviction occupational license stemming from a DWI contact is that a person must install and maintain an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. You will have to maintain a logbook that charts your destination each time you drive.

What Are the Disqualifications for a Pre-Conviction Occupational License?

If you have had your license suspended because of an alcohol or drug-related enforcement contact within the five years preceding the date of your current arrest, then your occupational license will not take effect until the 91st day after the effective date of suspension. Some people refer to this as a “90-day hard suspension.” Transportation Code Section 524.011 broadly defines contact to include convictions, test refusals, and failed tests. You will be disqualified from obtaining a pre-conviction occupational license if you have been issued two occupational licenses in the last 10 years.  You cannot get an occupational license if you lost your license due to a mental or physical disability, failure to pay child support, or to drive a commercial vehicle. If you are under the age of 21, you will have a 30-day hard suspension.

An applicant will be required to do the following:

  • Have evidence of financial responsibility under Transportation Code Chapter 601.
  • Have proof of an interlock ignition device

It is worth noting here, that unlike Texas Administrative Code Rule 15.7, the legislature did not require an SR-22 under the new legislation for these Post-Conviction Occupational Licenses. Under Transportation Chapter 601,”Financial responsibility” means the ability to respond for damages for liability for an accident.

What is the Difference Between Post-Conviction Occupational Licenses and Pre-Conviction Occupational Licenses?

Post-conviction occupational licenses are very different from pre-conviction occupational licenses. Unlike pre-conviction occupational license, the statutory authority for post-conviction occupational licenses comes from Article 42.12 Section 13 (o) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Post-conviction occupational licenses are filed in the criminal court in which the person was convicted of an intoxication-related offense. unlike the Pre-Conviction Essential Needs License, if a person obtains a Post-Conviction Occupational License based on soon-to-be-amended Transportation Code Section 521.428, the person will not be restricted to time, purpose, or location restrictions.

Pre-Conviction Essential Needs License Post-Conviction Occupational License Source
May be filed in a justice of peace court, county court, or district court with jurisdiction. May be filed in the criminal court in which the person was convicted. Transportation Code 521.242
Essential need must be found Texas Admin. Code 15.7
Essential needs not required Transportation Code 521.244, effective September 1, 2015
SR-22 is required Texas Admin. Code 15.7
Insurance required Transportation Code 521.244, effective September 1, 2015
License will have time, place and purpose restrictions Transportation Code Sec. 521.248
License will not have time, place and purpose restrictions Transportation Code Section 521.248(d), effective September 1, 2015

What Are the Conditions Required for a Post-Conviction Occupational License?

The applicant must have proof of financial responsibility and proof of an interlock. You must maintain the interlock device for the entire period of suspension.

What Is a “Permanent” Occupational License?

After an occupational license is signed by a judge, a copy of the license must be sent to DPS. DPS will issue a “permanent” occupational license. The temporary occupational license is valid for 45 day after the date it was signed,  during which time you should have you permanent occupational license. See Transportation Code 521.249.

What Happens After My License Suspension Is Over?

You may get your license reinstated by paying a $100 or $125 (depending on the reason of your suspension) directly to DPS. DPS will reissue your driver’s license.

Can I Get an Occupational License to Drive a Commercial Vehicle?


If a CDL holder refuses to provide a specimen of breath or blood after being arrested for DWI, the CDL will be suspended for a period of a year. If the CDL holder had a BAC of a .04 or greater at the time of driving a commercial vehicle, his license will be suspended for a year. If the CDL holder had a BAC of a .08 or greater at the time of driving a non-commercial vehicle, his license will be suspended for a year.

You may be able to save your license pre-conviction through the ALR process.


The disqualification period to get a CDL after a DWI conviction is at least one year. It is longer for CDL drivers who were qualified to move hazardous materials.

A second DWI conviction has irreversible consequences. Two or more DWI’s disqualify the driver from ever being eligible for a CDL, regardless of if the vehicle used in the incident was a personal or commercial vehicle.

Additionally, if a CDL holder uses a motor vehicle in the commission of certain felony offenses, their license will be disqualified for life.

If you currently hold a CDL and are convicted of a first DWI, in addition to the penalties you will receive under the DWI statute, you will also lose your CDL for a minimum of one year. If convicted for a second DWI, you will lose your CDL for life. This law extends to DWI’s that occurred in other states.

Pursuant to Section 522.086 of the Transportation Code, courts are prohibited from granting an occupational license that would allow a person to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

How Long Is an Occupational License Good For?

An occupational driver license usually lasts for the duration of the suspension, although licenses may have to be renewed annually.

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