The Common Law

Can I get a hardship driver’s license for football practice?

I'm 15 years old and play football at an AISD high school. It's difficult for my parents to get me to and from practice because of their work schedules. And when COVID goes away, I think I'll have even more challenges getting to and from school and sports commitments. I want to apply for a hardship driver's license so I can start driving myself. Is the hardship license likely to get approved?

– E.T.


Unlikely under just these facts. Legal driving age in Texas is 16. But as a 15-year-old, you still might qualify for a "hardship license" under certain circumstances. At least one of the following four circumstances must exist in order to get approved for a hardship license in Texas:

(1) an unusual economic hardship for the 15-year-old's family;

(2) a death-related emergency in the immediate family (close family member has recently died, and the 15-year-old must drive to carry on normal household routines);

(3) sickness, illness, or disability of a family member (typically one that requires the 15-year-old to drive the family member to medical treatment or to carry out other normal household routines); or

(4) the 15-year-old is enrolled in a vocational educational program.

Based on the facts in your question, it doesn't appear that you fall under any of the above criteria. The criterion requiring unusual economic hardship provides the most discretion, so that may be your best option when seeking approval (assuming the other three criteria don't apply). However, even this will be difficult because the Texas Hardship Drivers' License Card Application specifically states (in all caps and bolded), "TRAVEL TO PARTICIPATE IN SCHOOL ACTIVITIES SUCH AS BAND, SPORTS, ETC. WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED A SUFFICIENT REASON TO ESTABLISH AN UNUSUAL ECONOMIC HARDSHIP."

It's also worth noting that hardship licenses often come with limitations. For example, if you are given a hardship license to get to and from school or work, you would violate the terms of the hardship license if you are caught driving around with your friends at night. If you are caught driving under unauthorized circumstances, you risk losing your hardship license and delaying normal driving privileges when you turn 16.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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