Deciphering The Transportation Code: Occupational License for Nonresidents
March 10, 2011
By Paul Key on March 10, 2011 7:15 AM
With this kind of language the poor gentleman lost his wits, and distracted himself to comprehend and unravel their meaning; which was more than Aristotle himself could do, were he to rise again from the dead for that purpose alone.Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, The Life and Exploits of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha, Part I
I've often felt that we should try to resurrect Lord Blackstone so that he could attempt to unravel the meaning of the Texas Transportation Code, as it is clearly one of the most confusing and poorly written collection of laws in our state.
In Collin County and elsewhere in Texas, if someone has his license suspended, under most circumstances he can get an "occupational license." That name, like many things in the Transportation Code, is a little misleading, as one needn't even have a job to get one. It's really a license that allows one to drive for "essential needs," such as work, school, and grocery shopping.
Many of my colleagues, and apparently a lot of judges in Texas, have wondered whether someone can get an occupational license in Texas if his driver's license is from another state. As with virtually anything having to do with the Transportation Code, most lawyers' eyes begin to glaze at the thought of having to actually find an answer to such a question in the Transportation Code, and, as such, they rely on word of mouth from other lawyers.
Being somewhat of a Transportation Code geek, I overcame my own reluctance years back when I had a client in Collin County who had an out-of-state license and who needed an occupational license. It turned out that this answer wasn't too hard to find.
Transportation Code section 521.242 provides that "a person whose license has been suspended . . . " may apply for an occupational license. Transportation Code section 521.001(a)(6)(C) defines "'license' [as] an authorization to operate a motor vehicle that is issued under or granted by the laws of this state," and it includes "a nonresident's operating privilege." Finally, Texas authorizes out-of-state license holders to operate motor vehicles in Texas through the enactment of the Driver's License Compact of 1993. Transportation Code, Section 523.001.
If you're an out-of-state license holder and you need an occupational license in Collin County or anywhere in Texas, provided you otherwise qualify, then you can get one. If anyone tells you differently, tell him to talk to me.