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What to know about Iowa’s drunk driving penalties

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2021 | Drunk Driving |

Most Iowa residents are charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated when chemical tests reveal that they were behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, but the BAC threshold is reduced for commercial vehicle drivers and motorists under the legal drinking age of 21. Commercial driver’s license holders can face criminal penalties and lose their driving privileges when they operate their vehicles with a BAC of .04 or higher, and young drivers with a BAC of just .02 can be charged with OWI under Iowa’s zero tolerance law.

OWI penalties in Iowa

The drunk driving penalties in Iowa are harsh, and even a motorist with no prior OWI convictions can be sent to jail. Offenders may also be required to make restitution to their victims, attend substance abuse counseling and fit ignition interlock devices to their vehicles. The consequences of an OWI conviction in the Hawkeye State include:

  • Jail time of between 48 hours and one year for a first offense, one week and two years for a second offense and up to five years for a third or subsequent offense.
  • Fines ranging from up to $1,250 for a first offense to as much as $9,375 for a third or subsequent offense.
  • Driving bans ranging from 180 days to six years.

Refusing a chemical test

Iowa’s implied consent law requires motorists to submit to a blood or urine test when a police officer has reason to believe that they are operating their vehicles while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Refusing to submit to a chemical test will result in a driving ban lasting one year even if the motorist is not subsequently convicted of OWI. Refusing to take a breath test can also be introduced as evidence in court, and police can gather the evidence they need anyway by obtaining a search warrant to draw blood.

Drunk driving defenses

Proving impairment beyond reasonable doubt can be challenging for prosecutors in Iowa even when they have compelling toxicology evidence. Breath-test results may be challenged if the equipment used was poorly maintained, and OVI charges could be dismissed if the arresting police officer did not have the requisite reasonable suspicion to pull the defendant over.



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