New Ignition Interlock Device Requirements in Texas: Is there a Silver Lining?

 In Criminal

Occupational Drivers Licenses in Texas

New Legislation Creates Distinctions Between Pre-Conviction Essential Needs Licenses and Post-Conviction Occupational Licenses

House Bill 2246

On June 19, 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 2246 which takes effect September 1, 2015, and allows individuals convicted of a first-time DWI, whose license is suspended for an intoxication-related offense, to obtain an Occupational License provided the person has an interlock ignition device installed on their vehicle. Prior to the enactment of this law, Ignition Interlock Devices were most commonly required for individuals who had been previously convicted of Driving While Intoxicated or were alleged to have a Blood Alcohol Concentration of a .15 or greater.

Ignition Interlock Device

According to the Texas Transportation Code, an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) is a device that uses a deep-lung breath analysis mechanism to make impractical the operation of a motor vehicle if ethyl alcohol is detected in the breath of the operator of the vehicle. It is a mechanism installed on a vehicle to prevent it from being started unless the driver provides an alcohol-free breath sample.

Offense to which the new law applies:

Occupational and Essential Needs Licenses

Pre-Conviction Essential Needs License

Prior to a conviction for an intoxication-related offense, and during the period of an administrative license suspension stemming from a refusal to provide a breath or blood specimen after a DWI stop or a person providing a specimen of a .08 or greater, an Essential Needs License may be obtained pursuant to Section 521.241 et seq. In order to obtain an Essential Needs License, the individual must be able to set forth the reasons that the individual would need to drive for work, school, or for the performance of essential household duties. Additionally, an Ignition Interlock Device is necessary. Finally, Texas Administrative Code Rule 15.7 requires a person to obtain and maintain SR-22 Insurance while the occupational license is in effect. Once the court order is received by DPS, a license will be issued and the expiration date will be on the face of the license. It will be the earlier of the following dates: (1) when the suspension ends, or (2) first anniversary of the court order granting the occupational license, unless the applicant submitted the additional fee for the subsequent year.

Post-Conviction Occupational License

An Occupational License is a license that is ordered by a judge and issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety which allows a person to drive while their license might otherwise be suspended. Effective September 1, 2015, an individual convicted of a first-time intoxication-related offense will be able to obtain a Post-Conviction Occupational License without setting forth any essential needs they need to meet. Instead, they will be required to do the following:

  1. Have evidence of financial responsibility under Transportation Code Chapter 601.
  2. Have proof of an interlock ignition device

It is worth noting here, that unlike Texas Administrative Code Rule 15.7, the legislature did not require an SR-22 under the new legislation for these Post-Conviction Occupational Licenses. Under Transportation Chapter 601,”Financial responsibility” means the ability to respond for damages for liability for an accident.

Specifically, the requirements under the new legislation are as follows:

A person convicted of an offense under Sections 49.04-49.08 Penal Code who is restricted to the operation of a motor vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device is entitled to receive an occupational license without a finding that an essential need exists for that person, provided that the person shows: (1) evidence of financial responsibility under Chapter 601; and (2) proof the person has had an ignition interlock device installed on each motor vehicle owned or operated by the person.

While at first blush, the requirement for interlock may seem burdensome for first-time offenders, the law does provide for some financial relief in that it no longer requires SR-22 insurance for a post-conviction occupational license. (While the intent of the legislature is clear from the language it used in the new statute, expect potential resistance in the courtroom until everyone is familiar with the new provisions.)

Additionally, unlike the Pre-Conviction Essential Needs License, if a person obtains a Post-Conviction Occupational License based on soon-to-be-amended Transportation Code Section 521.428, the person will not be restricted to time, purpose, or location restrictions.

Pre-Conviction Essential Needs LicensePost-Conviction Occupational LicenseSource
May be filed in a justice of peace court, county court, or district court with jurisdication.May be filed in the criminal court in which the person was convicted.Transportation Code 521.242
Essential need must be found--Texas Admin. Code 15.7
--Essential needs not requiredTransportation Code 521.244, effective September 1, 2015
SR-22 is required--Texas Admin. Code 15.7
--Insurance requiredTransportation Code 521.244, effective September 1, 2015
License will have time, place and purpose restrictions--Transportation Code Sec. 521.248
--License will not have time, place and purpose restrictionsTransportation Code Section 521.248(d), effective September 1, 2015

Click here for more information on licenses suspensions for DWI cases in Texas.

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