Occupational Licenses


In Texas, when a person is convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI), or their driver’s license is suspended in an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) proceeding or another administrative proceeding or action brought by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), then during that suspension that person may be eligible to obtain a court order for the issuance of an “essential need” or “occupational” driver’s license. (We lawyers use the labels “essential need” license and “occupational” license interchangeably, and once the court has ordered that you may obtain a license, the DPS issues what it calls a “restricted” license.)

The “essential need” or “occupational” license proceeding is governed by the Texas Transportation Code and is conducted, normally, in a county court or county court at law, though district courts may have jurisdiction as well. Depending on the county, the proceeding to obtain the license is either in the same court as handled the DWI case or in another court with civil jurisdiction. Some counties have special procedures. (See Montgomery County and Harris County procedures, discussed below.)

The Department of Public Safety requirements for the issuance of a Texas Essential Need or Occupational Driver’s License are:

1) A County or District Court Order, or an Order from the Court in which the person was convicted granting an Occupational Driver’s License. The Order shall be definite as to hours of the day, days of the week, specific reasons for travel, and the areas of routes of travel to be permitted. Actual travel time does not have to be continuous, but specific hours must be stated in the Court Order, and shall not exceed twelve (12) hours in any given twenty-four (24) consecutive hour period. (This means that, before you can expect DPS to issue your restricted license, you must file a court proceeding to obtain the order granting you the essential need or occupational license.

2) Proof of financial responsibility by filing Form SR-22 (typically the pink certificate of liability insurance). An insurance agent can assist you in obtaining the SR-22 and sometimes they can be obtained online.

3) You must complete Texas DPS Form DIC-37, providing information to appear on the Essential Need or Occupational Driver’s License.

4) You must pay the fees required by the Department of Public Safety:

A reinstatement fee is required under the Safety and Responsibility Act (Court Costs Fees are separate), and

A $10.00 Fee for the issuance of the Essential Need or Occupational Driver’s License payable to the DPS ($10.00 fee for one (1) year or less).

There are other fees associated with the proceeding, but they are court costs, and are paid to the clerk of the court where your petition for an essential need license is filed.

The following rules are applicable to any person who has had the Driver’s License suspended due to a conviction of Driving While Intoxicated, (DWI), or driving privileges revoked by the Department of Public Safety for any reason, and wishes to obtain an occupational license during the period of suspension. Additionally, these requirements must be met before a court will order that you are entitled to an essential need license.

As mentioned above, an Occupational License will not be issued by the Department of Public Safety unless the driver has obtained liability insurance. You must obtain Form SR-22 and verification of purchase of at least six (6) months of liability insurance and present it to the court at the time of your hearing or the submission of your petition for an essential need license.

You must obtain, and present it to the court at the time of your hearing or the submission of your petition for an essential need license, a copy of your driving record. Some counties or courts may obtain that record at the time of or before your hearing, but you will be able to obtain a copy from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

You or your lawyer must prepare and file with the clerk of the court a Petition for Essential Need License. This is basically your request to the court to consider granting you a restricted license. In the Petition you must set out the reasons you need to drive during the period of your suspension. Also in the Petition, you must be specific as to the area and times in which you will be driving.

In Montgomery County, Texas, your attorney may be able to convince the judge who is hearing your DWI case to also hear your petition for an occupation license. Alternatively, one of the county courts at law is normally assigned to hear all of the Petitions for occupational licenses. Once you file the petition with the required paperwork and attachments, the clerk will forward your application to the judge and you will be notified of the outcome or the necessity of an in-person hearing.

In Harris County, Texas, if your license is suspended because of a DWI or associated matter, (such as the ALR suspension which is present in most DWI cases), most of the civil courts will not hear your petition, but will require that you file it with the court that is hearing or had heard your DWI case or other case associated with the suspension. Courts in Harris County are generally “specialized,” with certain courts hearing only civil cases and other courts hearing only criminal cases.

The law provides that if you are granted an occupational license, your driving privileges are limited not only to a specific geographic area (usually your home county and counties nearby), but you are also limited as to when and where you can drive. The law provides that you can drive no more than four (4) hours per day, although, if there is a specific need, the court can allow you to drive up to twelve (12) hours a day. (Texas Trans. Code, Title 7 § 521.248). Most courts will allow twelve cumulative hours of allowable driving time per day, once you demonstrate the need. You must be specific as to the number of hours per day you will need and that need must be justified, based on your particular occupational, educational or household duties.

The Petition filed for an occupational license must be sworn to, and often it is verified by your signature in front of a Notary Public.

Once you have obtained the SR-22 and your driving record, and prepared the Petition, it must be filed with the clerk of the court and the filing fee paid. At that point, depending on your county and the court’s procedures, a hearing will be set and you will be notified to appear, or the court will consider your Petition “by submission,” and you will not be required to appear and the clerk will notify you of the court’s action on your request.

When the Judge signs the Order granting the Occupational License, the Court Clerk will prepare two (2) certified copies of the Application and Order. You must keep one (1) set with you at all times while you are in the vehicle. It shall serve as a restricted license, and shall remain in effect until the 31st day after the date on which the Order takes effect (Texas Trans. Code, Title 7 § 521.249 (a). The other set is for you to mail or take to the Department of Public Safety. However, many counties and courts require you to prepare a “proposed order” setting out what you want the order to provide. And, some counties and courts have their own “pre-printed” form orders, where you must “fill in the blanks” and make certain selections from the options provided. Whichever kind of order the court uses, it must be signed by the Judge and a certified copy provided to you and the Texas Department of Public Safety before you may safely (and legally) drive.

If the clerk of the court does not send the forms to the Texas Department of Public Safety, then you must then take or mail the certified forms, along with the pink copy of the SR-22, the completed DIC-37, and any necessary fees to the Department of Public Safety.

Once the clerk has provided you with a certified copy of the Court’s order, and you have ensured that the Department of Public Safety is going to get a copy of the order and the required documents, you may legally drive on two conditions: first, that you only drive during the times and under the conditions set out in the order and, importantly, that you ALWAYS carry a certified copy of the court order allowing you to drive in your car, with you. Section 521.250 of the Texas Transportation Code explicitly provides that a “person who is issued an occupational license shall have in the person’s possession a certified copy of the court order granting the license while operating a motor vehicle. The person shall allow a peace officer to examine the order on request.”

You should keep in mind that the Court is not required to grant your request for an essential need or occupational license. In fact, some courts, depending on your driving record and criminal history, will not issue one, or, if they do, they will tack on additional requirements, such as ignition interlocks. You should almost always consult with an attorney regarding your chances for obtaining an essential need license before filing the petition. And, as is explained below, sometimes you just can’t get an essential need license, because the law forbids it.

If you want to learn more about the statutory requirements for the “essential need” or “occupational” license in Texas, review these sections of the Texas Transportation Code, available online: Sec. 521.248. ORDER REQUIREMENTS; Sec. 521.249. NOTICE TO DEPARTMENT; ISSUANCE OF OCCUPATIONAL LICENSE; Sec. 521.250. COURT ORDER IN OPERATOR’S POSSESSION.

And, on a final note. . . .

A “Hard Suspension” Means NO Occupational Driver’s License

Texas Transportation Code, Title 7, § 521.251 states, in part, that:

– If the person’s driver’s license has been suspended as a result of an alcohol-related or drug-related enforcement contact during the five (5) years preceding the date of the person’s arrest, the Order may not take effect before the 91st day after the effective date of the suspension.

– If the person’s driver’s license has been suspended as a result of a conviction under Sec. 49.04, 49.07, 49.08, Penal Code, during the five (5) years preceding the date of the person’s arrest, the Order may not take effect before the 181st day after the effective date of the suspension.

These time periods are what are known as “hard suspensions,” and apply to repeat alcohol or drug offenders. This means that you cannot obtain an occupational license during these periods – your license is suspended and your privilege to drive in Texas has been suspended without exception for those time periods. Only after these time periods have expired may you then obtain an essential need license.


What to do if you get stopped for DWI

So, You’re Stopped for Driving While Intoxicated. What do you do?

First, and foremost, act politely and with respect toward the officer. Keep in mind that officers must take care for their own safety during a traffic stop, and it is important that the officer understand that you are not a threat to their safety.

Activate your emergency flashers when you notice the officer wants to pull you over. Pull off the roadway safely.

Locate your driver’s license and proof of insurance and then keep your hands on the steering wheel. Answer the officer’s questions clearly and to the point. Don’t argue and don’t explain. If you can get by with just a ticket, that’s the best of the worst alternatives.

When you are stopped by a law enforcement officer and they ask you whether you’ve been “drinking,” and then they ask you to step out of your vehicle, the OFFICER ALREADY THINKS THAT YOU’RE DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED. The officer has already stopped you for another reason – speeding, unsafe lane change, “failure to maintain single lane,” or some other “traffic violation.” The officer will then likely note in his report that you “fumbled” for your license or insurance card, that your eyes were “bloodshot” or “glassy,” and that he smelled the “odor of an alcoholic beverage.” Once the officer forms these opinions, you are asked to exit your vehicle AND THE INVESTIGATION OF DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED HAS COMMENCED.

You need to protect yourself at this point, and the only thing that can protect your interest is for you to decide to remain silent. Do not volunteer any information. Remain polite and do not argue.

If the officer asks if you’ve been drinking, and then asks you to get out of your vehicle, you are more than likely going to jail. Everything that happens after you get out of your vehicle is designed to bolster the officer’s opinion that you are intoxicated and to provide evidence to support the criminal charge against you.

The best advice I can give you when you are stopped by a law enforcement officer and asked to take a breath test or a field sobriety test is this: just say “no, thank you, officer.”

While it may be intimidating, and while you may have your license suspended, and while the officer may try to tell you that if you “pass” these tests he will “let you go,” you should NOT participate in any of the field sobriety tests or consent to a breath or blood test. The chances of you passing the field sobriety tests are low. Remember – the defense of your DWI case starts when you’re asked to get out of your vehicle. If you GIVE the officer the evidence against you, you are many times more likely to be convicted of DWI. Just say “no, thank you, officer.”

The officer will likely ask you to take a number of field sobriety tests (and those are discussed elsewhere on this site). You should politely decline.

You have a right to decline to take these tests and you should exercise that right. Unlike refusing a breath test, the DPS cannot move to administratively suspend your license if you refuse to participate in these field tests. Remember, once the officer has asked if you’ve been drinking and asked you to step out of the vehicle, you are likely going to jail, anyway. Just say “no, thank you, officer,” when asked to perform any of these tests.

The best way to defend against the results of the Standard Field Sobriety Tests and the breath test is for the accused driver to say “no, thank you, officer,” when they are asked to take those tests. (In fact, I’ve devoted an entire website of information to a discussion of defending DWI cases. You can visit it at No Thank You Officer )If there are no results for the officer to point to, then the jury will be left with less evidence upon which to base a possible “guilty” verdict and you can defend yourself more effectively against an unfair and unfounded charge of driving while intoxicated.

In other words, be polite and be patient. Keep in mind that “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.” The number of people who “talk their way out” of a DWI arrest, or who pass the Standard Field Sobriety Tests, is very low. More than likely, you will NOT pass those tests, even if you’re not “driving while intoxicated.”

You can decide to “take your chances.” But, if you want the best chance of clearing your name of a DWI charge, just say “no, thank you, officer.”

For more information about defending driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases, the Administrative License Revocation procedure, and other issues involved in this very serious criminal offense, please visit No Thank You Officer . If you still have questions, please feel free to contact us, anytime.


Civil Litigation

This is a very abbreviated overview of the civil litigation
process in Texas. It is intended only as a general introduction to
common concepts and not as a guide to effectively
presenting or defending a civil claim.

A lawsuit is a civil action brought in a court of law in which a “plaintiff,” a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant’s actions — which could be for personal injury, breach of contract, or some other type of complaint — demands a legal or equitable remedy, usually meaning either a money judgment for damages or an order from the court for specific performance. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint.

In some cases, the Plaintiff may be called the “claimant” and the Defendant may be called the “Respondent.”

If the plaintiff is successful, then a judgment will be given in the plaintiff’s favor, and a variety of court orders may be issued to enforce a right, award damages, or impose a temporary or permanent injunction to prevent an act or compel an act. Additionally, under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, (which applies in Texas), a declaratory judgment may be issued to settle certain disputes and prevent future ones involving the same issues and parties.

The process of conducting a lawsuit is sometimes called “litigation.”

Rules of civil procedure govern the conduct of a lawsuit in the common law adversarial system of dispute resolution used in Texas. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure govern civil litigation in Texas state courts. Sometimes, these procedural rules are additionally modified by separate statutory laws, case law, and constitutional provisions that define the rights of the parties to a lawsuit, though the rules will generally reflect this legal context on their face. Often, the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code will set out the type, kind and variety of damages and relief a plaintiff may recover, and it sets out a variety of defenses in specific types of cases. Also, many other Codes in Texas set out a variety of deadlines and limitations that apply to specific civil cases.

While the details of procedure differ greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and often from court to court within the same jurisdiction, the Rules of Civil Procedure govern the basic track of a lawsuit.

Though the majority of civil cases are resolved prior to trial through mediation or by direct settlement negotiations between the parties’ attorneys, they can be very complicated to litigate. Often, discovery must be conducted before the parties are able to meaningfully start to negotiate a settlement of their dispute.

Lawsuits become additionally complicated as more parties become involved. Within a single civil action, there can be any number of claims and defenses (based on different laws and common law rights or defenses) between multiple plaintiffs or defendants, each of whom can bring any number of cross-claims and counterclaims against each other, and even bring additional parties into the suit on either side after it progresses. However, courts typically have some power to sever claims and parties into separate actions if it is more efficient to do so, such as if there is not a sufficient overlap of factual issues between the various claims.

A lawsuit begins when a complaint is filed with the court. This complaint will state that one or more plaintiffs is seeking money damages or equitable relief from one or more stated defendants, and will identify the legal and factual bases for doing so. It is important that the plaintiff selects the proper venue with the proper jurisdiction to bring his lawsuit.

Once the original petition or complaint is filed, the plaintiff will request the Clerk of the Court to issue a Citation. The Citation, along with a copy of the petition, is served on the defendant by either a private process server or a law enforcement officer. Sometimes, service of the Citation and the petition is effected by the Clerk by mail, or by alternative means, such as by publishing notice in a newspaper or posting the Citation on the defendant’s door. Service must be accomplished in the manner governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure and calculated to give actual notice of the lawsuit to the defendant.

The Citation notifies the defendants that they are being sued and that they have a specific time limit to file a response. By providing a copy of the complaint, the service also notifies the defendants of the nature of the claims. Once the defendants are served with the summons and complaint, they are subject to a time limit to file an answer stating their defenses to the plaintiff’s claims, including any challenges to the court’s jurisdiction, and any counterclaims they wish to assert against the plaintiff.

If the defendant chooses to file an answer within the time permitted, the answer must address each of the plaintiffs’ allegations by admitting the allegation, denying it, or pleading a lack of sufficient information to admit or deny the allegation. Some jurisdictions, like Texas, authorize general denials of each and every allegation in the complaint. At the time she or he files an answer, the defendant will also raise all “affirmative” defenses she or he may have. She or he may also assert any counterclaims for damages or equitable relief against the plaintiff, and in the case of “compulsory counterclaims,” must do so or risk having the counterclaim barred in any subsequent proceeding. The defendant may also file a “third party complaint” in which she or he seeks to join another party or parties in the action if she or he believes those parties may be liable for some or all of the plaintiff’s damages. Filing an answer “joins the cause” and moves the case into the pre-trial phase.

Discovery Procedures in Civil Cases in Texas

Discovery is a process by which the parties to lawsuits explore the facts, circumstances, evidence, and arguments of each other’s case. The purpose of discovery is to provide each side with full knowledge of the facts and documents prior to trial. Contrary to popular belief, the courts frown on “trial by surprise.” Rather, the courts expect each side to come into court knowing as much as possible about the opposing side’s evidence and arguments. As the Texas Supreme Court has stated, cases should be decided on the basis of what the facts reveal, not on the basis of what is concealed. As a result, your answers to discovery sent to you must be complete and truthful.

During discovery your attorney can evaluate the effectiveness of opposing witnesses and counsel, and prepare a strategy. Of course, while your attorney is evaluating the other side’s positions, they are evaluating yours. Information received during discovery can also help you and your attorney determine whether settlement is a viable option, and it can help your lawyer determine what type of settlement is satisfactory if it proves to be the best option.

It is therefore essential that you proceed with discovery in an effective manner. Typically, your lawyer will help you prepare your discovery responses, but will need your assistance in gathering the necessary information and in preparing the responses. Your participation in the discovery process will be vitally important to the success of your case.

The rules that govern lawsuits provide a number of different discovery techniques. For instance, in Texas, there are requests for disclosure, oral depositions, written interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission. Some of these devices will require written answers from you, some will require that you provide the other side with documents or other tangible things, and some require that you and other witnesses give sworn testimony before a court reporter. All of these discovery devices require that the answers be truthful and complete, and you will be required to swear to or verify all of the answers that you give. Discovery must be answered unless it is not within the proper scope of discovery or involves a matter that is privileged from discovery, such as communications protected by the attorney-client privilege or trade secret information. Below is a brief explanation of the discovery devices and a discussion of the parties’ duty to cooperate during discovery.

Parties routinely send “requests for disclosure.” Requests for disclosure require the receiving party to provide certain information without objection. These items include: the correct names of the parties to the lawsuit; the name, address, and telephone number of any potential parties to the suit; the legal theories and general factual bases of the responding party”s claims or defenses; the amount and method of calculating damages; the name, address, and telephone number of persons with knowledge of relevant facts and a brief statement of the person’s connection with the case; information on experts expected to testify at trial; all discoverable indemnity, insurance, or settlement agreements; statements of witnesses; and medical information.

A “deposition on oral examination” is similar to giving testimony at a trial, although a deposition does not occur in a courtroom. The person whose deposition is taken, called the deponent, is placed under oath and questioned by the attorney for the party who scheduled the deposition. Any attorneys representing other parties to the case are also entitled to be present and ask questions. Of course, the attorney representing the deponent is also there to protect that person’s interests and to object to any improper questions or tactics. There is no judge, but a court reporter will be present to record the testimony. The deposition may also be videotaped, as well as being recorded stenographically, if the party scheduling the deposition requests.

“Interrogatories” are written questions sent by one party to another. As the case develops, we will probably receive and send “requests for admissions.” Requests for admissions ask the receiving party to admit certain facts, and take them out of controversy.

You will be required to verify the answers to the interrogatories by signing them under oath, with your signature notarized.

“Requests for production” ask that a party produce certain documents or other tangible items relevant to the lawsuit so that the other side can inspect or copy them. Sometimes, document production and review can be a time-consuming process. So, when you are served with discovery such as this, it is important that your attorney get as much of the requested material as possible from you, as soon as possible, so that he will have sufficient time to review it before the deadline.

Lawyers have a duty to cooperate in the discovery process; we can be severely penalized by the court if we do not respond honestly and promptly to reasonable discovery requests or if we abuse the discovery process in any way. In recent years, many judges have lost patience with uncooperative lawyers and clients, and have taken an active approach towards imposing sanctions. Sanctions for discovery abuse can be imposed on both the lawyer and the client, and possible sanctions include monetary fines and, for extremely abusive behavior, pleadings can be stricken from the case and claims can be dismissed or a default judgment can be rendered. You can actually lose your case, regardless of the merits, if the judge determines that we are not conducting or participating in discovery in good faith. We must be sure that we cooperate during discovery, and provide full and complete responses to any discovery we receive. However, let me make clear that this duty to cooperate is not a duty to volunteer. While we will certainly give honest answers to reasonable discovery requests, we will not provide any information that is not clearly requested. Let me also assure you that we will do our best to protect privileged information.

Of course, your lawyer can also demand reasonable behavior during discovery from the opposing party and their counsel. Your lawyer should certainly react strongly to any abuse of the system that is directed at you, and may ask the court for sanctions in appropriate cases.

Trial and Resolution of Your Case

At trial, each side presents witnesses and enters evidence into the record, at the close of which the judge or jury renders their decision. Generally speaking, the plaintiff has the burden of proof in making his claims, which means that it is up to her or him to produce enough evidence to persuade the judge or jury that his or her claim should succeed. The defendant may have the burden of proof on other issues, however, such as affirmative defenses.

There are numerous motions that either party can file throughout the lawsuit to terminate it “prematurely”—before submission to the judge or jury for final consideration. These motions attempt to persuade the judge, through legal argument and sometimes accompanying evidence, that because there is no reasonable way that the other party could legally win, there is no sense in continuing with the trial. Motions for summary judgment, for example, can usually be brought before the actual presentation of the case. Motions can also be brought after the close of a trial to undo a jury verdict that is contrary to law or against the weight of the evidence, or to convince the judge that she or he should change his decision or grant a new trial.

Also, at any time during this process from the filing of the complaint to the final judgment, the plaintiff may withdraw his or her complaint and end the whole matter, or the defendant may agree to a settlement. If the case settles, the parties might choose to enter into a stipulated judgment with the settlement agreement attached, or the plaintiff may simply file a voluntary dismissal, so that the settlement agreement is never entered into the court record.

After a final decision has been made, either party or both may appeal from the judgment if they believe there had been a procedural error made by the trial court. Even the prevailing party may appeal, if, for example, they wanted a larger award than was granted. The appellate court in Texas is, first, the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals is an “intermediate appellate court” and after reviewing the result in the trial court may affirm the judgment, reverse, or vacate and remand, which involves sending the lawsuit back to the lower trial court to address an unresolved issue, or possibly for a whole new trial. Some lawsuits go up and down the appeals ladder repeatedly before finally being resolved.

After the Court of Appeals decision, a party may petition the Texas Supreme Court to hear a further appeal. However, the Texas Supreme Court has the discretion to decide which appeals it will hear, and hears many fewer cases than are petitioned.

When the lawsuit has finally been resolved, or the allotted time to file an appeal has expired, the matter is referred to in the law as “res judicata.” In other words, that dispute, between those parties, is fully and finally resolved and generally a court in a later action will not, and cannot, change the prior result. The plaintiff is precluded from bringing an action resulting from the same claim again. In addition, other parties who later attempt to re-litigate a matter already ruled upon from a previous lawsuit will be estopped from doing so.

Enforcement of a Judgment

This section is very general, as the manner and means of enforcing a judgment – as well as avoiding enforcement of a judgment – is very extensive and often complex.

If the judgment is for the plaintiff, then the defendant must comply under penalty of law with the judgment, which will usually be a monetary award. If the defendant fails to pay, the court has various powers to seize any of the defendant’s assets located within its jurisdiction, such as:

  • Writ of execution, where a constable or sheriff visits the defendant’s home or place of business and seizes non-exempt property to sell to satisfy the judgment.
  • Bank account garnishment, where the plaintiff applies for a writ of garnishment compelling the bank or other financial institution to pay to plaintiff the funds the institution holds for the defendant.
  • Liens, which are created by the judgment and the filing of the Abstract of Judgment and its appropriate filing.
  • Wage garnishment – does not exist in Texas.


This short overview of the civil litigation process should give you an idea of how much effort is involved in even “small” civil cases. The rules are many and sometimes complex, and very often the stakes are high. Going to court to resolve a claim should be a last resort, and the parties should be prepared to go through the processes necessary to either settle the claim or go to trial. An experienced lawyer is absolutely essential to your success in most civil cases.

Nothing in this memorandum should be construed as legal advice nor is it intended as legal advice to guide you in any specific situation. This is a very abbreviated overview of the civil litigation process in Texas. It is intended only as general introduction to common concepts and not as a guide to effectively presenting or defending a civil claim.

You should ALWAYS consult with a licensed attorney before attempting to represent yourself or make any decisions regarding any civil litigation.