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Iowa OWI Laws

You will face two separate legal actions if you are arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) in Iowa, as in other states: a criminal case for the offense and a civil case involving your license. This means you likely will spend a considerable amount of time dealing with the state's court system and paying and various fees -- even before a verdict has been reached. If you are found guilty of an Iowa OWI, you will be required to serve at least 48 hours in jail and/or a $1,250 fine; however, the judge may waive up to half of that if there was no bodily injury or property damage caused by the offense. The penalties for a second offense only get more severe, punishable by a minimum of seven days and up to two years in prison.

It's best to avoid driving while intoxicated, of course. But if you find yourself charged with an OWI, understanding the law is the first step toward protecting your interests. The basics of Iowa's OWI laws are listed below, with links to related resources.  

Iowa DUI (OWI) Laws: Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Implied Consent

"Per Se" BAC Limit 0.08 Percent
Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit 0.02 Percent
Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC Limit 0.15 Percent
Implied Consent to Submit to BAC Test? Yes (1 year license suspension for refusal)

Iowa DUI (OWI) Laws: Select Penalties

Minimum License Suspension or Revocation (1st, 2nd, 3rd offense) 180 days / 1 year / 3 years
Mandatory Alcohol Education, Assessment and Treatment Both (can be mandatory)
Vehicle Confiscation Possible? Yes
Ignition Interlock Device Possible? Yes, (required if BAC is above .10%)

Note: State laws are always changing through legislative, judicial, or other means. While FindLaw works hard to ensure the accuracy of its legal resources, it's a good idea to thoroughly research the law or check with an attorney to make sure you have the most recent information.

Iowa DUI (OWI) Resources

  • Iowa OWI Statute: Operating While Intoxicated (Iowa Code 321J.2).
  • Information for Offenders of Iowa's OWI Law - Brochure on the impaired driving laws of Iowa, for use in academic settings (Iowa Dept. of Education).
  • Suspensions / Revocations: OWI - Information about driver's license suspension in the wake of an OWI and how to reinstate your license (
  • Ignition Interlock Program - Basics on ignition interlock in Iowa, with links to approved providers (Iowa Dept. of Transportation).
  • OWI Education - Information about the various educational programs available for those convicted of an OWI in Iowa (Iowa Dept. of Education)
  • DUI Law - Articles and resources to help you understand impaired driving laws, court procedure, how to work with an attorney, and more (FindLaw).
  • What are the Iowa OWI Laws? - Additional information about Iowa's OWI laws, with specifics about penalties and links to related sources (FindLaw).
  • Des Moines Courthouses - Information about courthouses in Des Moines, Iowa, including maps (FindLaw).

Charged with an OWI? Get Professional Legal Help

A conviction for OWI in Iowa can result in hefty fines, license suspension, even jail time in some instances. And while you may not want to pile legal fees on top of that, a good attorney will advocate on your behalf and perhaps even save you money -- or keep you out of prison. If you have been arrested for OWI and need help understanding the law, you should consider contacting an OWI attorney in Iowa.

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