Occupational Driver’s License

What is an Occupational Driver’s License (ODL)?

An occupational driver’s license, also known as an essential needs license, is a special restricted license that allows you to drive a non-commercial car from work, school, or to perform essential duties.

Why get an Occupational Driver’s License?

People usually seek an occupation driver’s license after receiving an administrative suspension for refusing to give a blood or breath sample during a DWI stop, for having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more, for a DWI jail conviction, or a drug conviction. You cannot get an ODL for a physical or mental disability or impairment.

Even if you have never had a Texas driver’s license, you can still obtain an ODL because “license” as defined by the Texas Transportation Code Section 521.001(6) includes the privilege to obtain a Texas driver’s license.

Can a person with a Commercial driver’s license get an ODL?

According to Section 522.086 of the Texas Transportation Code, you cannot be granted an ODL. Additionally, if arrested for a DWI, your commercial license will be suspended for 1 year.

What are the Requirements?

To receive an occupation driver’s license, a person must demonstrate an essential need. An essential need in Texas is defined under the Texas Transportation Code Section 521.241 as the person’s need to operate a motor vehicle for the following:

  • To perform their occupation or job or for transportation to and from the workplace,
  • For transportation to and from school, or
  • In the performance of an essential household duty.

An exception to this rule is a person whose license has been suspended because of a DWI. This individual is entitled to receive an ODL without a finding of an essential as long as they provide proof of interlock and proof of the SR-22. Additionally, a person that falls under this category may be required to attend a program approved by the court designed to provide counseling or rehabilitative service for alcohol dependence.

What must the petition include?

The petition must be filed in the county where you live or the county where the offense occurred. It must specify the reason for the suspension and it must indicate that the person has not been issued in the last 10 years of the date of filing more than 1 ODL. Additionally, it must indicate the reason for the essential need and specify the hours needed to drive. For example:

Monday – Friday – 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.; 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. (4 hours)

Saturday – Sunday – 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. (12 hours)

What documents are needed?

After a judge approves your petition, you are given a temporary ODL valid for 45 days. It is important that you send the following documents to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) so you can receive your permanent ODL:

  • Certified copy of the signed petition by a judge granting the ODL
  • Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22)
  • Certified copy of your Driving record
  • Proof of interlock (if DWI related suspension)
  • The occupational license fee, and
  • Any additional reinstatement fees

When does the ODL become effective?

The ODL becomes effective as soon as the judge signs the order! It does not matter if you’ve had a prior DWI conviction within 5 years, as long as you show proof of an interlock, your ODL will be effective immediately.

What if your license was suspended for failure to pay a surcharge?

You may qualify for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Driver Responsibility Indigency program. Under this program, if you have a very low income and meet other requirements DPS can: 1) reduce the surcharge amount you owe and 2) let you keep driving while you make payments on the surcharge amount. For more information about this program go to: https://www.txsurchargeonline.com/Indigence.aspx.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense and need an ODL, contact the lawyers at the Law Office of Patrick J McLain, PLLC. We can help defend you against various crimes and will fight vigorously to protect your legal rights. You can call us 24/7 by calling (214) 416-9100 or visit our law office at 3316 Oak Grove Ave St #200e, Dallas, Texas 75204. Don’t wait before it is too late!


  • Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC We found Patrick McLain to be the consummate professional
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