Driving in Texas is a privilege, not a right. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) may revoke your license if you commit certain offenses or are medically incapable of driving. The courts may also revoke a driver’s license. Revocation means that the person’s privilege to drive a vehicle is terminated for a period of time, after which a new driver’s license must be obtained.

When Can a Driver's License Be Revoked in Texas?

Under Texas law, a driver’s license may be revoked for multiple reasons. These 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. 
  • DPS may automatically revoke or suspend your license for either a DWI/BWI arrest or a medical disability.

If DPS is concerned that you are medically incapable of driving, the Medical Advisory Board (MAB) will perform an investigation. The MAB will review your medical records and other information. Based on its investigation, it will make recommendations to DPS—which may result in the suspension or revocation of your driving privileges.

If you are arrested for a DWI or BWI, you will be offered a breath or blood test. Refusal or failure of this test will lead to a suspension of your driving privileges. This suspension (called an Administrative License Revocation or ALR) is a civil process. You may also face separate criminal DWI or BWI charges.

Once a person’s driver’s license is revoked, it becomes an additional criminal offense to drive with a revoked license. Driving with a revoked or suspended license is a criminal misdemeanor in Texas.

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

ALR penalties vary, depending on your situation. For example, if you are over the age of 21 and:

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

Different rules apply to minors who fail or refuse a breath or blood test. After your suspension, you must pay a fee and complete a series of forms before your driver’s license will be reissued. If your license is suspended due to a medical condition, your driver’s license may be reinstated if you can prove that your condition has resolved or improved.

If you are caught driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license, you may face criminal charges. A first time offender is typically charged with a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500. However, cases involving repeat offenders, uninsured drivers, DWI/BWI’s, or serious injuries may involve higher penalties (up to $4,000 in fines and a year of jail time).

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

If you are facing an ALR, you must request a hearing within 15 days of your arrest. A hearing request will postpone the suspension of your driver’s license. However, if you do not file an appeal within 15 days, you cannot appeal the suspension.

At the hearing, DPS must prove that the officer had:

  • Reasonable suspicion to stop you or probable cause to arrest you;
  • Probable cause that you were operating a vehicle or boat while intoxicated;
  • You were arrested and notified of the consequences of refusing or failing a sobriety test (both verbally and in writing);
  • You were given a chance to undergo sobriety testing and either refused or failed the test.
  • If DPS cannot prove one of these elements, your driver’s license will be returned.

In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove that the person drove while their license was in fact revoked or suspended. Typically, the prosecutor must also prove that you had notice of the suspension or revocation.

Are There Any Defenses?

If you are criminally charged from driving on a revoked or suspended license, you may have legal defenses. Most defenses involve your lack of knowledge of the suspension or revocation. For example, if DPS failed to send you a notice of revocation or suspension, this may be a defense.

What is an Occupational or Restricted License?

Texas is somewhat unique in that it allows some persons who have had their license suspended to obtain an Occupational or Restricted license. This type of license enables the person to commute to work and back during the period of suspension. It also allows the person to drive in order to complete necessary household duties. In order to obtain one, the person would have to apply with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The application involves providing a description of the routes to be driven, as well as the days and hours that the person will be driving. Occupational licenses are not available for every person who is under a license suspension. In particular, suspension for medical reasons or failure to pay child support will make a person ineligible for a restricted license. Check with a lawyer for more details on occupational licenses.

Can I Get My License Reinstated?

Once the period of suspension is completed, the license may be restored or reinstated. This involves filing with the Department of Public Safety and supplying proof of insurance. A fee is involved and ranges from $100-$125, depending on the reasons for suspension.

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

If your Texas driver’s license was suspended or revoked, you should consider appealing DPS’ decision. A driver’s license lawyer can guide you through the hearing process. Additionally, if you are facing DWI/BWI charges, the DPS appeal may impact your criminal charges.

If you have been charged with driving on a suspended license, you may face significant fines and jail time. A criminal defense lawyer can help you prepare your case and understand your rights under Texas driving laws. This is especially true if your charges are for a repeat offense, which will result in stricter consequences. LegalMatch has attorneys in Texas available to review your case in all major cities, including Houston criminal law lawyers.