In Iowa, like many other places, the legal drinking age is 21. This isn’t news to most people, nor would it be a surprise to acknowledge that people under the age of 21 sometimes also consume alcohol — particularly college students living on their own for the first time.
The state’s operating while intoxicated (OWI) laws are different for underage drinkers, however. And for someone not yet 21, it can be much easier to end up running afoul of the law.
Iowa’s zero tolerance law
The legal driving limit is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08. However, that threshold doesn’t apply in the same way to underage drinkers.
Iowa has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage alcohol consumption. What that means is, if a driver is not 21 years old, a much smaller amount of alcohol can result in a penalty.
What is the legal limit for an underage driver? A BAC of 0.02 or higher.
The penalties for underage drinking and driving
For a driver aged 18-20, a BAC above 0.01 but below 0.08 can result in a license suspension. That revocation is 60 days for a first-time offender, and 90 days for any subsequent violations, regardless of if the driver winds up facing criminal charges.
If that underage driver refuses to allow a chemical test to measure their BAC, then they face a license suspension of one year for the first violation, and two years for each additional violation.
What about an underage driver with a BAC of 0.08 or higher? They face the same potential OWI criminal penalties as any other adult, regardless of age.
An arrest and license suspension can have serious negative impacts on a young adult’s life; particularly as it pertains to their ability to get around. An attorney may be able to help with the case and potentially limit any long-term repercussions. A strong defense can help ensure a young adult’s small mistake does not cost them well into the future.