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OWIs in Iowa: What you need to know if you're stopped

In Iowa, OWIs are taken very seriously. Those who are on the roads while intoxicated put themselves and others at risk. Since that's the case, there's a potential that you could face serious penalties if you're caught drinking and driving or driving under the influence of drugs.

OWIs aren't automatic, and you do get a chance to defend yourself. Here are some things you should know.

What is a DUI in Iowa?

Iowa's laws refer to a DUI as an OWI. OWI means operating while intoxicated. If you operate a motor vehicle while you're intoxicated, then you violate the state's OWI laws.

Do OWIs only apply to alcohol intoxication?

No. OWIs only mean that you've been driving while you're being influenced by a substance that makes you an unsafe driver. For example, if you're driving under the influence of a drug that makes you too tired to drive, you might be considered under the influence. If you're driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more or have illicit drugs in your system, you can face an OWI. The penalties you'll face depend on your age, the substance used, your BAC and if you've been convicted of an OWI in the past.

What kinds of penalties could you face for an OWI in Iowa?

If you are arrested after being accused of an OWI, there are several things that could happen. If you are over the per se BAC limit of .08 blood alcohol concentration, then you will face an OWI. If you are under the age of 21 when you're stopped or arrested, the zero tolerance laws apply. These laws state that those under the age of 21 may not have a BAC over .02 percent.

The enhanced penalty BAC limit is .15 percent. If you are stopped with a BAC of .15 or higher, you face enhanced penalties such as higher fines or the potential for prison time.

Everyone with a license agrees to implied consent, which gives the police the right to test your breath. If you refuse to give your consent for the test, then you will lose your license for one year in accordance with the law.

The penalties you could face include having to use an ignition interlock device, having your vehicle confiscated, going through mandatory alcohol education, treatment and assessment, and having your license revoked or suspended. A first-offense DUI results in a license suspension of up to 180 days, while second and third offenses are a year and three years respectively. An ignition interlock device is mandatory if your BAC comes back at .10 percent or higher.

What should you do if you're accused of an OWI?

If you're accused of an OWI, make sure you speak with someone familiar with the state's OWI laws immediately. You don't want to say or do anything that could incriminate you if you can help it. Don't admit to drinking or try to explain any reckless or allegedly negligent behaviors.

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