An arrest and conviction for DWI in Texas is no laughing matter. Jail time may be involved. Fines and the additional costs of a DWI conviction can put a serious dent in a person’s finances. However, for many, the most difficult part of a Texas DWI is the driver’s license suspension.

For Texans, driving is more than a simple convenience. Many people rely on their vehicles to get to and from work. Others use their vehicles as a part of their jobs. Still others depend on the vehicles to get to school, get their children to school, or to perform other critical household tasks. In all these cases, the loss of driving privileges can have a serious effect on an individual’s personal and professional life.

The Texas DWI License Suspension Process

A driver who is arrested for DWI in Texas will be asked to take a breath or blood test to measure their blood alcohol concentration level. If they refuse to take the test, or if they fail the test by having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, they will be subject to an administrative license suspension from the Texas Department of Public Safety. In such a case, the arresting officer will confiscate their driver’s license and issue a temporary driving permit.

This temporary permit is good for 40 days from the date of the arrest. On the 41st day following the arrest, their driving privileges become suspended for:

  • 90 days, if this is their first offense and they failed the testing;
  • 180 days, if this is their first offense and they refused the testing;
  • One year, if they failed the testing and their license was previously suspended for failing or refusing chemical testing, or for a DWI conviction in the ten  years preceding the current arrest;
  • Two years if they refused the testing and their license was previously suspended for failing or refusing chemical testing, or for a DWI conviction in the ten years preceding the current arrest.

During this suspension period, all driving, for any reason whatsoever, is prohibited unless the person affected applies for and receives an occupational license.

The Occupational License

An occupational license is a restricted license that is issued to a person who has had their driver’s license suspended, revoked, or denied. The occupational license allows that person to drive:

  • To and from work or to perform their duties at work;
  • To and from school; or
  • To perform essential household duties.

An occupational license will not be issued to operate a commercial vehicle. Furthermore,  you cannot get an occupational license if you have previously:

  • Lost your driving privileges due to a medical condition;
  • Lost your driving privileges due to a failure to pay child support; or
  • Have received two occupational licenses in the last ten years.

How To Obtain An Occupational License

Under Texas law, if your license has been suspended, you may have to wait a specific amount of time before you can apply for an occupational license. Depending on your circumstances, the following time periods could apply:

  • A person with an administrative license suspension who has not had any previous alcohol-related suspensions in the past five years is immediately eligible for an  occupational license;
  • A person with an alcohol-related suspension in the past five years must wait 90 days from the date of the current suspension;
  • A person convicted of DWI in the last five years must wait 180 days from the date of the current suspension;
  • A person convicted of two or more DWI offenses in the last five years must wait one year from the date of the current suspension.

Once the applicable waiting period, if any, has elapsed, you can apply for an occupational license by doing the following:

  • Obtain the documentation that you need to ask the court to order the Department of Public Safety to issue you an occupational license, including:
    • A Petition to Issue an Occupation License;
    • An Order to Issue an Occupational License;
    • A certified abstract of your driving record from the Department of Public Safety;
    • Proof that you need to drive to and from work, to and from school, or for essential household duties (e.g., a letter from your employer, copy of your school schedule);
    • SR-22 from your auto insurer that shows you have the minimum auto liability insurance required by law;
    • The court fee for filing the Petition (varies with county);

Once you file the petition, a judge will consider your Petition. If the judge grants the Petition, he will sign the Order and mark any restrictions which can include:

  • Installation of an engine interlock device on your vehicle if you two or more DWI convictions or your license was suspended after conviction of an enhanced DWI offense;
  • Attendance at an alcohol or drug counseling program;
  • Community supervision;
  • Limitation as to which counties you are allowed to drive in;
  • Limitation that you can only drive to and from or at work, to and from school, or for specific essential household duties;
  • Number of hours you can drive per day (either four hours or 12 hours); or
  • Limitation on what days of the week and what hours on those days you are allowed to drive.

Once the judge signs the order granting your Petition, you must submit the following to the Department of Public Safety in order to get your occupational license:

  • A certified copy of your Petition;
  • A certified copy of the signed Order granting your Petition;
  • Your SR-22 proof of insurance;
  • The occupational license fee (either $10 for one year or $20 for two years); and
  • $125 for the reinstatement fee.

The Department of Public Safety will then issue you an occupational license.

The State of Texas takes driving while intoxicated seriously. This means that you need to take any DWI charges pending against you seriously as well. If you need to drive while your license is suspended, you need to make sure that the process required to obtain an occupational license is done correctly. R.J. Harber is an expert in Texas DWI laws, and his practice focuses on DWI and DUI cases. Contact him for a free, confidential consultation at 214-389-1189, or through his online contact page.