What is an “ODL"?
Through the years, the Texas legislature and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) have made obtaining and retaining an occupational license an increasingly complicated and expensive affair. An occupational license is not the same as your regular “24/7 drive anywhere anytime you want" license that you are used to. But it’s probably going to allow you to continue to do all the things you need to do. In Texas, an “ODL" or "occupational license" is a temporary permit which can be obtained if your regular driving privileges have been suspended. An occupational license is often referred to as an “essential needs license" by DPS and the courts. The license is issued by a county or district judge who orders the Department of Public Safety to allow you to drive at certain times of the day despite your DWI-related driver’s license suspension. An occupational license authorizes the operation of a non-commercial motor for up to 12 hours a day as necessary for the following:
ü In the performance of your occupation and to and from home to your place of business.
ü for transportation to and from an education facility in which you are enrolled.
ü in the performance of essential household duties.
If your license is suspended through the ALR process for a DWI arrest in Texas, the default for occupational license driving time is four hours a day. However, a judge has discretion to increase the time allowed to twelve hours a day. Likewise, a judge has the ability to reduce it below four hours a day...and in some jurisdictions, they do that quite frequently. In my experience, most Texas judges understand that in today’s world people work various hours, have multiple jobs, use daycare and have child rearing responsibilities and other types of important commitments. If it is a first time DWI with no collision and no ‘aggravating’ factors, most of my clients can provide me with the documentation that I need to get a judge to increase the driving time from the four hour default rule all the way up to the twelve hour a day maximum. If this is not your first DWI or license suspension for an alcohol or drug related offense, see the question below about your special circumstances.
How do You Obtain an “ODL"??
Requests for such licenses are made to the county or district court in the county of the licensee’s residence or to the court of original jurisdiction where the offense occurred.
There are several requirements that must be satisfied prior to a judge granting an occupational driver’s license.
Provide your attorney the required documentation, including:
Petition of an Occupational Driver’s License must be drafted and filed, with the required filing fee, with a court that has jurisdiction over the matter. This court is usually made in either a county or district court located in the petitioner’s county of residence or in the court that retains original jurisdiction. This court is where the offense occurred. In order to receive a “gap" occupational license, you must meet the license requirements of the Texas Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act. You must show the court that you have current valid liability insurance before it will grant an order. The petition and order must be very specific as to the days of the week, times of travel and areas of travel. Some courts even require the specific route of travel to be set forth clearly in the documents. A log of travel is permissible but it is not popular. One judge told me that it is a source of more trouble for everyone than the specific times are set forth in the documents. Most importantly, the times do not need to be continuous and should be short periods spread around the clock to allow some flexibility in travel. Any times between 10 PM and 5 am are going to create special scrutiny, so plan on providing full documentation about any need for travel during those times.
Some courts require that the State’s Attorney review the documents before it is submitted to the court; other courts don’t have this requirement. Your attorney will handle this for you.
The petitioner must have current valid insurance at the time of the court hearing and, before sending the documents to DPS, must obtain SR-22 insurance which is a special insurance policy, require by the State of Texas, as a prerequisite to obtaining an occupational license It usually is not required before the court issues its order, but some courts require it before it will issue an ODL order.
Some courts require a copy of the petitioner’s driving record to be submitted along with the petition and order. Others have access to your driving record and will do it for you.
The Petition for Occupational License must be presented to a judge for his or her approval. Some judge’s require an in-person hearing before granting an occupational license. See, Texas Transportation Code Section 521.242, 37 Texas Administrative Code 15.7. Texas requires you to purchase SR-22 insurance and provide the "original SR-22 certificate" as proof to the DPS or have your insurance company submit it electronically. This is a special high-risk policy for people who are in your position and it may be expensive. Additionally, your insurance company may raise your rates or cancel your policy when you request the SR-22. Many agents are not familiar with the SR-22 so they take much longer to provide it; sometimes delaying your license too long. It’s important that you ask you agent about the SR-22, its costs and what kind of information they need to secure the policy well in advance of actually needing the policy. Submit a certified copy of the court petition and order, the SR22 and fees to the Texas DPS so your occupational license can be granted. It’s important to note that some insurance companies send the SR-22 directly to the DPS in Austin; others will give you the original, expecting you to send it to Austin. It’s critical that if you get the original, you get it to your lawyer to send it to DPS in a timely manner
The court clerk will issue 2 certified copies of both the petition and order. One goes to DPS and the other to you.
Carry the certified copy of the petition and court order with you. It allows you to drive for up to 30 days from the date of signing while you wait for the DPS to process your occupational license
The court that issued the ODL can revoke it at any time.
The DPS will not issue the actual valid ODL until all its requirements are satisfied.
The ODL process is one that a person can do without an attorney, but using an attorney is smart because the process has many steps that are best done by someone who has done it before. Find an attorney experienced in ODL and it will be easier and better for everyone.