Occupational Driver’s Licenses for Texas DWIs

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal


(972) 369-0577

What is an Occupational Driver’s License?

In Texas, an occupational license (also known as an ODL) is a temporary permit allowing people to drive while their license has been suspended due to a breath test refusal or breath test failure in a DWI situation.

How Can I Get an Occupational Driver’s License?

An occupational license is attained through a civil petition (basically a civil lawsuit) which a judge must approve.  The Judge can allow someone to drive for 4 hours a day (but can extend that to 12 hours a day upon showing of “essential need.”)  The court order, by law, must contain the times and routes of travel.  Judges can also order other provisions such as interlock devices be placed on cars during the occupational period for DWI cases.

For those with irregular travel due to work (for things such as sales routes), Judges can order log-books be kept in the vehicle.  Also, for the issuance of an occupational license, the State requires you attain what is known as SR-22 insurance.

What is an “Essential Need?”

Tex.Trans.C. 521.241 defines “essential need” as:

“(A)  in the performance of an occupation or trade or for transportation to and from the place at which the person practices the person’s occupation or trade;  (B)  for transportation to and from an educational facility in which the person is enrolled; or  (C)  in the performance of essential household duties.”

Chapter 522 of the Texas Transportation Code covers commercial vehicles.  No occupational licenses can be granted for commercial vehicles.  Tex.Transp.C. 521.242(f).

Occupational questions and qualifications can be very complex and consulting an attorney can save you much time and effort.

Quick References for More Information

The statutes governing driver’s license suspenses and occupational licenses due to intoxication and even marijuana offenses read like complicated flow charts and matrices… but here are some generalities and reference points:

Occupational licenses are governed by Chapter 521 of the Texas Transportation Code, Subchapter L.  Breath test suspensions are governed by Chapters 524 and 724 of the Texas Transportation Code.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For specific legal advice in your situation, you should consult an attorney.


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