Although already convicted three times of drunken driving, a Texas driver got a special license that lets him drive all but 60 seconds per day, seven days a week, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The case and many like it highlights how suspected drunken drivers who seek permission from a judge can almost always use the Texas occupational license law to stay behind the wheel, despite other legislation intended to get them off the road immediately.
Nearly a decade ago, Texas lawmakers, following a national trend in toughening their stance on drunken driving, adopted a law that called for automatically confiscating the licenses of people who fail or refuse to take a breath alcohol test. Texas also permits defendants to obtain occupational licenses if they can clear a loosely defined hurdle: convincing a judge that they have an “essential need” to drive. The American-Statesman and KVUE News spent three months reviewing hundreds of cases in which suspected drunken drivers sought and received special licenses. Among the findings: Judges routinely sign off on requests for occupational licenses – and, in fact, rarely deny them – even at times to defendants with previous convictions. Judges generally conduct no formal review of the facts concerning the drunken driving arrest before signing off on an occupational license request. Judges almost never require drunken driving suspects to appear in court to question them under oath about their driving needs, nor do they necessarily require proof of employment.