In Texas, driving is a privilege and not a right. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) may revoke an individual’s driver’s license if they commit certain offenses or are medically incapable of driving. 

A Texas court may also revoke an individual’s driver’s license. Revocation of a driver’s license means that the individual’s privilege to drive a motor vehicle is terminated for a period of time. After this period of time, the individual must obtain a new driver’s license.

In Texas, the offenses of Driving with License Suspended (DWLS) and Driving with License Invalid (DWLI) are considered Class C misdemeanors. If an individual has a previous DWLS or DWLI conviction, they may face enhanced charges.

When Can a Driver’s License be Revoked in Texas?

Pursuant to Texas laws, an individual’s driver’s license may be revoked for many reasons. Texas license suspension reasons may include:

  • An intoxicated driving or boating, DWI or BWI, arrest;
  • Medical disability;
  • Repeated traffic violations;
  • Past due child support; and
  • Operating a vehicle without insurance. 

It is important to note that DPS may automatically revoke or suspend an individual’s driver’s  license for either a DWI or BWI arrest or a medical disability. If the Texas DPS is concerned that an individual is medically incapable of driving, the Medical Advisory Board (MAB) will conduct an investigation.

The MAB will review the individual’s medical records and other relevant information. Based upon their investigation, the MAB will provide recommendations to the DPS. These recommendations may result in the suspension or revocation of an individual’s driving privileges.

If an individual is arrested for DWI or BWI, they will be offered a breath test or a blood test. The refusal or failure of this test will lead to a suspension of an individual’s driving privileges. 

This type of suspension is called an Administrative License Revocation (ALR). An ALR is a civil process. In addition to this, an individual may face separate criminal DWI or BWI charges.

Once an individual’s driver’s license is revoked, it becomes an additional criminal offense to drive with that revoked license. As previously noted, in Texas, driving with a revoked or suspended license is a criminal misdemeanor.

What Are the Penalties for Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License in Texas?

The penalties for driving with a suspended or revoked license in Texas may vary depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if the offender is over the age of 21 and:

  • Refuses a sobriety test:
    • First offense: 180 day suspension
    • Subsequent offenses: two-year suspension.
  • Fails a sobriety test:
    • First offense: 90 day suspension
    • Subsequent offenses: one-year suspension.

There are different rules which apply to a minor who refuses or fails a breath test or a blood test. After an individual’s suspension, they must pay a fee and complete a series of forms prior to the driver’s license being reissued. If an individual’s driver’s license is suspended due to a medical condition, an individual’s driver’s license may be reinstated if they can prove that their condition has improved or resolved.

If an individual is caught driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license, they may face criminal charges. Typically, a first time offender is charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $500. 

If, however, the case involves certain circumstances, the offender may face higher penalties, such as a year of jail time and up to $4,000 in criminal fines. These circumstances include:

  • A repeat offender;
  • An uninsured driver;
  • A DWI or BWI; or
  • Serious injuries.

How Does the State of Texas Prove I Drove on a Revoked License?

If an individual is facing an ALR, they must request a hearing within 15 days of their arrest. The hearing request will postpone the suspension of the individual’s driver’s license. If, however, the individual does not file an appeal within 15 days, they will not be able to appeal the suspension.

At the ALR hearing, the Texas DPS must prove that the law enforcement officer had:

  • Reasonable suspicion to stop the individual or probable cause to arrest the individual;
  • Probable cause that the individual was operating a vehicle or boat while intoxicated;
  • The individual was arrested and notified of the consequences of refusing or failing a sobriety test, both verbally and in writing; and
  • The individual was given a chance to undergo sobriety testing and either refused or failed the test.

If the Texas DPS cannot prove one of these elements, the individual’s driver’s license will be returned. In criminal cases, a prosecutor must prove that the individual operated a motor vehicle while their license was, in fact, revoked or suspended. Typically, the prosecution must also show that the individual had notice of the suspension or revocation.

Are There Any Defenses to Driving While License Suspended in Texas?

Yes, there may be some defenses available to driving while license suspended in Texas. Most defenses which are available involve the diver’s lack of knowledge of the suspension or revocation. For example, if the Texas DPS failed to send the individual a notice of the revocation or suspension, it may be a defense to DWLS.

What is an Occupational or Restricted License?

Texas is unique because it permits certain individuals who have had their driver’s license suspended to obtain an Occupational or Restricted Driver’s License. This type of license allows the individual to commute to work and back during the period in which their license is suspended. 

This type of license allows an individual to drive in order to complete necessary household duties. An individual has to apply with the Texas Department of Public Safety in order to obtain this type of driver’s license.

An application for an occupational or restricted license requires the applicant to provide a description of the routes they will be driving as well as the days and hours in which they will be driving. An occupational license is not available for every individual who’s driver’s license has been suspended.

There are some reasons which make an individual ineligible for a restricted license, including a suspension for medical reasons for the failure to pay child support. It is important to consult with an attorney for more information regarding occupational licenses.

Can I Get My License Reinstated?

Once the period of license suspension is completed, an individual may have their driver’s license restored or reinstated. This requires the individual to file a request with the Department of Public Safety and supply proof of their insurance. The fee for this service may range from $100 to $125, depending on the reason the individual’s license was suspended.

As of September 1, 2019, Texas repealed the Driver’s Responsibility Program. This program tracked driver’s traffic violations, assigned points to their driving records, and assessed fines to drivers who accrued or exceeded a certain number of points. If an individual’s drivers license was suspended solely under this program, their license should have been automatically reinstated on the date of termination of the program.

Do I Need a Texas Lawyer for a Charge of Driving on a Revoked License?

Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of a Texas traffic violation lawyer if you have been charged with driving with a revoked license. If your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked, you should consider appealing the decision of the DPS.

Your lawyer can guide you through the hearing process. In addition, if you are facing DWI or BWI charges, the DPS appeal may have an impact on your criminal charges.

If you are charged with driving with a suspended license, you may be facing significant fines and even jail time. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights under Texas driving laws, help you prepare your case, and represent you at any hearing or in court.

It is even more important to have an attorney on your case if you are facing charges for a repeat offense, which has more severe consequences. There are LegalMatch attorneys in Texas who are available to review your case in all major cities, including Houston criminal law lawyers.