Trouble In Big D! A True Occupational License Story
When it comes to occupational licenses, Dallas County is considered one of the “easier” jurisdictions to get one issued. That is not to say that Dallas County judges are push overs or they are lax in their execution. In fact, Dallas County judges tend to understand and apply the occupational license laws better than any other county we have encountered. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to the rule. Recently, we have become privy to a major development in Dallas County courts and a person’s ability to obtain an occupational license. In the Criminal District Court system, the judges have had their ability to hear occupational license cases because of confusion concerning the law. Specifically, Section 521.245 of the Texas Transportation Code; as follows:
Sec. 521.245. REQUIRED COUNSELING. (a) If the petitioner’s license has been suspended under Chapter 524 or 724, the court shall require the petitioner to attend a program approved by the court that is designed to provide counseling and rehabilitation services to persons for alcohol dependence. This requirement shall be stated in the order granting the occupational license.
(b) The program required under Subsection (a) may not be the program provided by Section 521.344 or by Section 13, Article 42.12, Code of Criminal Procedure.
(c) The court may require the person to report periodically to the court to verify that the person is attending the required program.
(d) On finding that the person is not attending the program as required, the court may revoke the order granting the occupational license. The court shall send a certified copy of the order revoking the license to the department.
(e) On receipt of the copy under Subsection (d), the department shall suspend the person’s occupational license for:
(1) 60 days, if the original driver’s license suspension was under Chapter 524; or
(2) 120 days, if the original driver’s license suspension was under Chapter 724.
(f) A suspension under Subsection (e):
(1) takes effect on the date on which the court signs the order revoking the occupational license; and
(2) is cumulative of the original suspension.
(g) A person is not eligible for an occupational license during a period of suspension under Subsection (e).
The issue among the judges appears to be section (a) which requires the judge to include in the occupational license order alcohol dependence counseling. Apparently, the judges have not been enforcing this provision and have been ordered to cease ordering occupational licenses until the judges can arrange an effective method of monitoring the counseling.
A breakdown of that condition reveals that has limited application but the judges have not been able to understand its true purpose. Here is a breakdown of section (a). First, A petitioner’s license has been suspended under Chapter 524 or 724. Chapter 524 relates to an administrative suspension for failure to pass a test for intoxication. Under that chapter, a person who’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 or greater will have their license administratively suspended. The period of suspension ranges from 90 days for a first time offender to one year for a repeat offender with one or more prior alcohol related enforcement contacts within 10 years of the date of the latest arrest for driving while intoxicated.
Chapter 724 relates to an administrative suspension for refusal to submit to a peace officer’s request for a blood or breath specimen for analysis. The suspension period for a refusal here is 180 days for first time offenders or two years ifthe person has a prior alcohol-related or drug related contact on his/her driving record in the 10 years prior to the most recent date of arrest for driving while intoxicated.
Alcohol-related or drug-related contact is defined under 524.001(3) as:
(3) “Alcohol-related or drug-related enforcement contact” means a driver’s license suspension, disqualification, or prohibition order under the laws of this state or another state resulting from:
(A) a conviction of an offense prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle or watercraft while:
(ii) under the influence of alcohol; or
(iii) under the influence of a controlled substance;
(B) a refusal to submit to the taking of a breath or blood specimen following an arrest for an offense prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle or an offense prohibiting the operation of a watercraft, if the watercraft was powered with an engine having a manufacturer’s rating of 50 horsepower or more, while:
(ii) under the influence of alcohol; or
(iii) under the influence of a controlled substance; or
(C) an analysis of a breath or blood specimen showing an alcohol concentration of a level specified by Section 49.01, Penal Code, following an arrest for an offense prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle or watercraft while intoxicated.
Therefore, Chapter 524 involves a failure to pass a breath or blood test and Chapter 724 relates to a refusal to submit to the test. That is the only application for this provision which mandates alcohol dependency counseling. It is not for any subsequent suspension because of a conviction for driving while intoxicate, whether the suspension is issued by a judge in an order or by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) because of the conviction.
The judges have either failed to see the mandates limited application or refuses to accept its purpose and have stopped occupational licenses in district courts in Dallas County as a result. Remember, so far, this is for criminal district courts only.
It is important that you obtain a recent and certified copy of your complete driving record to for review during any preparation to to file for an occupational license. We will keep you informed on this blog of any changes to the current stay.
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