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What Are the Iowa OWI Laws?

In Iowa, driving under the influence (DUI) is labeled as operating while intoxicated (OWI). A person commits the offense of operating while intoxicated if he or she operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or other drug or a combination of such substances, while having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more, or while any amount of a controlled substance is present in the person, as measured in the person's blood, breath, or urine. The penalties and sentences associated with this crime depends on the age of the driver, his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and the number of times that the driver has been convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

BAC Limits

Iowa OWI laws presume that drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs if their blood, breath, or urine has an alcohol concentration above a certain level. When operating a motor vehicle in the Hawkeye State, most drivers may not possess an alcohol concentration of .08 or above. However, motorist of commercial vehicles may only possess a BAC of under .04 to drive legally.

As with most states across the U.S., Iowa follows a "zero tolerance" policy for motorist under the age of 21. The state lowers the BAC limit of these drivers to .02 to deter these type of drivers from operating vehicles while intoxicated. These violators also face stiffer sentences depending on the situation.

Implied Consent to OWI Tests

Any driver that decides to use the Iowa roadways consents to an OWI test. If a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has been operating a motor vehicle in violation of Iowa OWI laws, the driver is deemed to have given consent to the withdrawal of specimens of the person's blood, breath, or urine and to a chemical test or tests of the specimens for the purpose of determining the alcohol concentration or presence of a controlled substance or other drugs.

Refusal to Take a Test

A person who refuses to take a chemical test will have his license revoked for a period of one year. If the person has refused a test on a previous occasion, the driver will have his or her license revoked for two years.

Penalties and Sentencing

Iowa OWI laws set specific penalties and sentences depending on the number of times that the driver has been arrested for this crime. Regardless of the number of times the offense has occurred, all offenders of Iowa OWI laws are provided an assignment to substance abuse evaluation and treatment, a course for drinking drivers, and, if appropriate, a reality education substance abuse prevention program. The following breaks down the fines and jail time associated with each level of this crime.

First Offense

Under Iowa OWI laws, a first offense is classified as a serious misdemeanor. This is punishable by a minimum period of imprisonment of 48 hours, but not to exceed one year. Also, the court may assess a fine of $1,250. However, if no personal or property injury has resulted from the defendant's actions, the court may waive up to $625 of the fine. The drivers license may also be revoked for a minimum period of 180 days and up to a maximum revocation period of one year

Second Offense

A second offense of Iowa OWI laws is classified as a aggravated misdemeanor. This is punishable by a minimum period of seven days in prison but not to exceed two years. The driver will also receive a minimum fine of $1,875 and a maximum fine of $6,250. Furthermore, the driver's license will be revoked for a period of one year.

Third and Subsequent Offenses

Third and subsequents offenses of Iowa OWI laws are classified as class "D" felonies. This is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison with a mandatory minimum of 30 days behind bars. The court may also assess a minimum fine of $3,125 and a maximum fine of $9,375. The drivers license will also be revoked for a period of six years.

Ignition Interlock Devices and Impoundment

Courts have the ability to required ignition interlock devices (IID) on the car of persons that violate Iowa OWI laws. For first offenders seeking a temporary license, an IID is only required for drivers that had a BAC above .10. However, all second and subsequent offenders are required to have an IID regardless of BAC level.

The court also has the ability to impound the vehicle of Iowa OWI violators. A motor vehicle is subject to impoundment if a person is convicted for a second or subsequent offense under Iowa OWI laws or if a person operates a vehicle while that person's driver's license has been suspended, denied, revoked, or barred.

Getting Legal Help

If you are facing a DUI charge in Iowa, think about seeking legal advice from a qualified Iowa DUI attorney to fully understand your rights. With competent legal representation, you can quickly get back into the driver's seat.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex DUI situations usually require a lawyer
  • DUI defense attorneys can challenge Breathalyzer/Intoxilyzer or blood test results
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