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What Is an Occupational or Essential Needs License?

When a person gets arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, two legal trains simultaneously take off from the station – one is the criminal charge and the other is the potential driver’s license suspension. One of these trains is criminal (DWI) while the other is civil (driver’s license). The Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) is going to try and suspend the arrested person’s license for a period of time, ranging from 90 days to two years. This article will focus on Occupational Driver’s Licenses (also known as Essential Needs Licenses) and attempt to clear up some confusion in this area.

For purposes of this article, we will assume that a person was arrested for their first DWI and refused to provide a breath or blood specimen. In this case, DPS is going to attempt to suspend that person’s license for a period of 180 days. We will also assume that an administrative judge agreed with DPS and signed an order suspending the license for that amount of time. Now what?

An Occupational Driver’s License (“ODL”) will be needed. An ODL will cover the length of the DPS license suspension. If the license was suspended for 180 days, then the ODL will cover that 180 days. An ODL can be tailored to reflect any length of suspension. Note, however, that a person is not eligible for an ODL if they have had more than two ODLs in the previous 10-year period.

There are two routes to go in obtaining an ODL: with an ignition interlock or without an ignition interlock. If a person gets an interlock/deep lung device installed on their car, they can apply for a special ODL called an Ignition Interlock License (IIL) which does not have any geographic or time restrictions. If a person does not get an interlock installed, the Judge can limit the hours per day, the counties in which they can drive and the actual time of day that one is allowed to drive. An ODL can allow up to 12 hours per day of drive time. So, unless the person obtaining an ODL is a long – haul driver, they likely will not exceed the 12-hour limitation. An ODL can be customized to cover the hours of the day a person needs to drive. The client will also need to provide a driving record and obtain an SR-22 insurance rider – a special kind of non-owner insurance policy for the duration of the suspension. Both can be easily obtained online.

Once the judge signs off on the Order, certified copies are sent to DPS so the ODL is uploaded and reflected in the DPS database. DPS will then issue a card that looks like a normal driver’s license but notes the restrictions on its face. When the ODL expires the regular driver’s license will be restored.

Basically, the granting of an ODL is the way to drive legally while your license is suspended. Courts understand that people have to work, go to the grocery store, drop the kids off at school and travel for other aspects of daily life.

Contact Hamilton Grant if you need to obtain an occupational driver’s license.

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