Thousands of Texans’ lives are hamstrung by an overwhelming situation: they have numerous traffic tickets, and they see no way to fix it. They don’t even know where to start. Many of them have invalid driver licenses, so they risk going to jail every time they decide to drive.
Tickets in this situation frequently are old. The total to pay them all seems like a mountain, and paying one doesn’t change the situation.
There is some good news. Most situations are fixable.
You may need some help, though. You also may have to face some ugly, difficult truths along the way. For example, your license may remain invalid or become invalid for a while, depending on your situation. Here are three important steps you can take now.
1 – Do Not Pay Your Ticket Yet
Getting to know the lay of the land is critical. Knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do. You need a clear plan with an understanding of everything you are facing. Otherwise, you could seriously worsen your situation.
We frequently get calls from people who have already made critical mistakes. The most common way they dig their holes deeper is by simply paying what a court says you “owe” for a ticket. Absolutely no one “owes” anything for receiving a ticket. A ticket is no more than a mere accusation, unless you are found guilty.
DO NOT PAY YOUR TICKET WITHOUT KNOWING ALL THE CONSEQUENCES. Simply paying a court for a ticket automatically results in a conviction. Convictions can have aftershock effects well beyond simply the cost of the ticket, even suspension of your driver license.
Many issues are readily identified by a simple search at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s eligibility website.
You also may need to get a complete driving record to be able to fully assess the situation. Such a record is called a certified abstract or Type AR.
2 – Create a Plan
Once you have a clear idea of what you face and what your driving record shows, you can formulate an intelligent plan of action.
A routine reason a driver license is invalid is it has not been renewed, due to OMNI holds. Getting rid of all holds on a driver license is essential. If even one hold remains, you will not be able to renew. Posting a bond and making an appearance may be all it takes to lift an OMNI hold. Another way to have a hold lifted is to resolve your entire case.
You may easily find OMNI holds online. Only two valid reasons for an OMNI hold exist: 1) you failed to appear at all; or 2) you have been found guilty and have a financial obligation. If the hold is because you didn’t paying a fine after being found guilty, you must pay to remove the hold.
Occupational Driver License
If a license is already invalid, it may take a while to resolve your situation. The best course is to cause no further harm. A great option to avoid making the situation worse is to simply not drive until the license is valid again. Almost no one wants to do this.
A more palatable alternative is to obtain an “essential needs” driver license, most commonly referred to as an “occupational driver license” or “ODL”. Driving to and from a worksite is invaluable, as is being able to complete needed trips to medical appointments and school. This kind of license typically has restrictions not applicable to a fully valid license. Times, routes, and other circumstances may be limited. It is an opportunity to drive legally while your plan is put into place, regardless.
Free fill-in-the-blank style forms to apply for ODLs and instructions are available at the aptly-named Texas Law Help’s website. This is something almost everyone can do without the necessity of hiring a lawyer.
3 – Get Professional Help
This is the stage which usually involves getting help from a lawyer. It’s important to get help from a lawyer who is familiar with traffic laws, special court procedures related to traffic cases, administrative laws, and how Texas DPS works. I have been dealing with such matters for decades.
Trying to handle this stage without a lawyer is risky, at best. Advice from friends, clerks, cops, and anyone except a lawyer is a bad idea. Please don’t make your situation much worse. Get in contact with someone who truly knows what to do.
Many of my clients have multiple holds on their driver licenses. One had 14 active suspensions when he came to me. He had his license back within a year. (He gave me permission to use his story.) Regardless of your situation, we can at least give you an idea of what it will take to fix it.
You may have the good fortune of needing something as simple as paying a reinstatement fee to make your driver license valid again. If that’s all you need, a free consultation is probably all you’ll need. Few situations we encounter are that simple. Most involve numerous pending tickets, which require careful attention to detail.
I usually try to resolve the pending violations with an eye toward avoiding convictions. That typically involves communications with prosecutors and courts about the situation. People without lawyers almost always have difficulty getting the attention of prosecutors at all, if they happen to know that is important.
The best advice I can give is to involve a lawyer at this step. Just do it.
When you get your driver license back, learn from the experience. Never let anything slide again. Avoid conviction whenever possible. If you can’t do it yourself, hire a competent attorney to deal with any future ticket you get. If you ever get correspondence regarding your driver license, get legal advice immediately.