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Do you have to perform a chemical sobriety test in Iowa?

If you are pulled over in Iowa under the suspicion of drunk driving, do you have to take a breathalyzer test? Unless you know your legal options ahead of time, you may accidentally hurt your case. 

What does the law say?

It is illegal to drive in all 50 states if your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds .08 percent. If you are pulled over on the suspicion that you were driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer may ask to conduct a chemical or field sobriety test.

Under this circumstance, the state of Iowa assumes that you have given implied consent to an officer to perform a chemical test (breath, urine or blood) on site or at the police station. At any point, you have the right to refuse to submit to chemical testing. If this happens, the officer must not perform the test. Your refusal, however, will have legal consequences.

What happens if you refuse a chemical test?

Refusing a field breathalyzer is your legal right. It does not necessarily protect you from further testing at the police station, but it does deny the officer one form of evidence against you. It is important to know that a field breathalyzer is not as accurate as the one at the police station, where they could also test your blood or urine.

If you refuse the second test at the station, the severity of the charges against you will be increased, especially regarding the revocation of your license. You will likely lose driving privileges for years to come.

If you refuse a preliminary breathalyzer or other field sobriety test, performed near your car or on the side of the road, the officer is required to inform you of the legal consequences of your decision. This will include:

  • Your refusal is admissible in a court of law and could be used against you.
  • Your license must be revoked for one year and you cannot receive a temporary license for 90 days (if it is your first offense).

After the officer informs you of these consequences, you will have the opportunity to reconsider. If you still refuse you could be arrested and charged with an OWI along with any other appropriate charges. As in other OWI cases, you could still be required to pay civil fines, undergo addiction treatment, mandatory probation and pay for towing fees for your vehicle.

It is important to weigh these consequences against the consequences for failing a field sobriety test. Refusing is your right, but it could demonstrate stubbornness to a court, incur heavier fines, take longer to restore your driving privileges and take longer to recover from financially. Knowing your legal rights today could help you make an informed decision tomorrow.

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