In the state of Texas, an occupational driver license (ODL) is a restricted license available to a person whose driver's license has been suspended, revoked or denied for certain offenses. An occupational driver license is different from an occupational license for a specific type of profession, such as barber or electrician.
An individual can petition a Justice of the Peace, county or district court where they reside or the court that originally heard their case to get an occupational driver license.
Capabilities of Occupational Driver Licenses
An occupational driver license is also called an essential need license. It is issued for other than a medical reason or delinquent child support.
The license allows the holder to operate a noncommercial motor vehicle in connection with work; performance of essential household duties, such as shopping for groceries; and school-related activities, like picking up children. The holder of an occupational driver license may not drive the vehicle for other purposes.
Applying for a Texas Occupational Driver License
The individual must submit a petition to the court for an occupational driver license. They must obtain a certified abstract (Type AR) of their driver license record to submit with the petition. The cost for this record is $20.
The most convenient way to get a driver record is online. The Texas Department of Transportation cannot provide in-person driver record services at branch locations. If the person is participating in a special drug court program, the petition is not required.
Documents Needed for a Driver Record
In order to request a driver record, the individual will need:
- Most recent Texas driver's license, commercial driver license, or identification card number with the audit number from that card.
- Date of birth.
- Last four digits of Social Security number.
- Computer with Adobe Reader and Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Mozilla Firefox installed.
- Valid credit card to pay the fee.
- Ability to print or email the record immediately after purchase.
Attending a Court Hearing
The court holds a hearing to determine if the person is eligible for an occupational driver license.
The state may have an attorney present to object to the issuance of an occupational driver license if the person suffered a license suspension because they were convicted of a criminal homicide, an offense involving alcohol or drug intoxication, or they were under 21 and their license was suspended for a DUI.
If the judge finds in favor of the person requesting the license, they will provide them with a signed court order. This order is not the license itself. The individual must submit the court order to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) with other required documentation in order to receive their occupational driver license.
Court Petition Form
Each court may have unique requirements for the petition. There is a sample petition available on the Travis County Law Library website. An individual should contact their county court to determine whether this form is sufficient. The filing fee to submit a petition varies by county. In Travis County, the fee is $50.
Submitting the Petition to DPS
Items to submit to DPS include:
An individual can pay fees online on the license eligibility page (same page as the reference for reinstatement fees) or mail the fees to DPS. If mailing fees to DPS, they should pay by check or money order and submit all required documents in one envelope to: Texas Department of Public Safety, Enforcement and Compliance Service, P.O. Box 15999, Austin, TX 78761-5999.
Petitioner must write their full name, date of birth and driver's license number on each document submitted. If they have a suspension notice, they should include a copy to identify their driver record. The individual should allow 21 business days for processing.
Fees for Occupational Driver License
The fees for an occupational driver license are:
- $10 per year for new license or renewal of an existing license, issued up to a maximum of two years. The court must grant the issuance of an occupational driver license beyond one year. The driver must pay reinstatement fee first.
- $10 to add an
ignition interlock device
restriction to a driver license. Driver must pay reinstatement fee first. * $21 for a new or renewal occupational driver license for an individual registered under Chapter 62 of the CCP, the sex offender program under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. This license expires one year after the previous expiration date.
Driving in the Interim Period
Under Texas law, the individual may use the court order as a driver's license for 45 days from the date of the judge’s signature while DPS is processing the request for an occupational driver license. If they do not receive the occupational driver license from DPS before the 45th day, they cannot drive until they do.
If there is a delay, the person can return to court to ask for the issuance of an amended order for ODL that extends the deadline past the 45th day limit.
Waiting Period for Issuance of License
DPS will issue an occupational driver license once it processes the request, unless certain situations apply.
Type of Concern
Driver's license was previously suspended as the result of an alcohol or drug-related offense, like drug possession.
Driver's license was in suspension as a result of an intoxication-related conviction, like driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI).
Petitioner has at least two administrative driver's license revocations on their driver record.
Mandatory one year
Petitioner requested occupational driver license to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
Not Applicable. DPS cannot issue an occupational driver license for purposes of operating a commercial motor vehicle during a period of license suspension, revocation, cancellation or denial.
An additional waiting period is imposed if the person had a license suspension due to a criminal conviction within five years prior to their current arrest. For example, the person must wait an additional 90 days after DPS has processed their package if they were arrested for public intoxication within five years before the date of their recent arrest for a DWI.
Driving While Intoxicated
In Texas, the state charges a person with a DWI if the individual is an adult 21 or older and has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or above, or their driving abilities are impaired due to intoxication.
The state charges a person with a DUI if the individual is 20 or younger and has consumed any alcohol. A holder of a commercial motor vehicle license, a commercial driver, is considered intoxicated if their blood alcohol concentration is 0.04 percent or above.
Failure to Abide by License
A person who holds an occupational driver license commits an offense if they operate a motor vehicle in violation of a restriction imposed on the license or fail to have a certified copy of the court order when they are operating the vehicle.
An offense of this type is a Class B misdemeanor. The penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is incarceration up to 180 days and a fine up to $2,000.
If a person is convicted of this offense, the occupational license and the order granting the license are revoked. If a person is convicted of a DWI or DUI and does not complete an alcohol dependency program, the judge has the authority to revoke the occupational license or impose an additional 60- to 120-day license suspension.
Penalties for a DWI
The costs to resolve a Texas DWI or a Texas DUI are different from the costs and penalties associated with requesting an occupational driver license. The fines in this table do not include a state fine of $3,000, $4,500 or $6,000 assessed upon sentencing.
There are additional penalties for other charges associated with a DWI, such as impaired driving with a child passenger or driving with an open container.
Up to 180 days' incarceration, with three mandatory days
One-month to one-year incarceration
Between two years and 10 years in prison
Fine up to $2,000
Fine up to $4,000
Loss of driver's license up to one year
Loss of driver's license up to two years
Loss of driver's license up to two years
Frequently Asked Questions
Let's take a look at some frequently asked questions regarding occupational driver licenses.
How long does it take to get an occupational driver license in Texas?
It takes 21 days from the day that DPS receives the envelope with all of the required documents to process an occupational driver license. There will be an additional waiting period if the circumstances warrant one, such as the individual has at least two administrative driver's license revocations on their driver record.
How much does it cost for an occupational driver license in Texas?
The cost will be the fee for the occupational driver license, typically $10 per year, plus reinstatement fees. The amount of reinstatement fees depends on the individual and their circumstances. There is an additional $10 fee to add an ignition restriction to a driver's license.
Is it hard to get an occupational driver license in Texas?
It is not difficult to get an occupational driver license if the individual meets the state’s criteria for this license.
How much does an occupational license driver lawyer cost in Texas?
The assistance of an attorney to get an occupational driver license is not required. But an attorney can help a client file a petition to the court to request the license and organize the materials for DPS.
An individual may want to consult a criminal defense attorney with experience in DWIs or DUIs to assist them with getting an occupational driver license if the individual is requesting the license because they committed a DWI or DUI.
A DWI attorney typically charges between $250 and $600 per hour in Texas, depending on where they are located and the complexity of the case. An attorney will charge more to defend a client with a complicated case. For example, a client who committed a DWI as well as a hit-and-run in the same incident would have a complicated case.
Some attorneys charge a flat retainer fee for all cases involving a DWI, such as $2,500. They may also charge additional amounts at an hourly rate if the offender engages in case requires additional matters, such as a motion to suppress evidence in preparation for a trial.
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Occupational Driver License
- Texas Transportation Code: Title 7 Vehicles and Traffic, Chapter 521 Driver's Licenses and Certificates
- Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation: Occupational & Professional Licenses
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22)
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Driver License Fees
- Texas Code of Criminal Procedure: Chapter 62 Sex Offender Registration Program
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Check Driving Eligibility and Pay Reinstatement Fees
- Texas Department of Transportation: Impaired Driving and Penalties - DUI/DWI
- Texas Penal Code: Title 3, Punishments, Chapter 12, Punishments
- Texas Law Help: Petition for Occupational Driver's License
- Travis County, Texas: District Clerk, Fees
- Texas Law Help: I Need an Occupational Driver's License
- Texas Department of Public Safety: How to Order a Driver Record
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.