It is a serious offense to drive while drunk in Iowa. Those convicted of an operating a vehicle while under the influence (OWI) offense may face misdemeanor charges the first time. Second offenses and situations involving harm to other people may lead to prosecution for felony offenses instead.
The possible penalties of judge could impose include jail time, probation, fines and license suspension. Under the law in Iowa, there are three distinct common scenarios in which the state can pursue OWI charges against a motorist.
When someone is under the influence of drugs
There are a host of different mind-altering chemicals that impact someone’s ability to drive. Alcohol is the only substance with an established limit according to Iowa statutes. Any detectable amount of controlled substances like narcotic pain relievers or prohibited drugs can lead to OWI prosecution under Iowa law.
When someone’s BAC is over the legal limit
The second situation in which OWI charges are possible involves driving after drinking. Those who consume too much alcohol will develop an elevated blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Anyone with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is potentially at risk of prosecution if they drive. The per se limit for BAC in Iowa is firm. Even someone who does not display signs of intoxication can face charges for having an elevated BAC.
When someone combines substances
An individual does not need to be over the legal limit for alcohol if they test positive for both alcohol and other drugs. Combining controlled substances with alcohol can be a very dangerous choice. People may experience more profound consequences than they would from consuming either substance on its own. Police officers in Iowa may arrest people during targeted traffic enforcement if they seem impaired on the road. It is also common for the police to perform chemical tests after motor vehicle collisions. Someone who did not cause a crash could still end up charged with an OWI if they fail tests performed after a collision.
Thankfully, anyone who has been accused of an OWI has the right to defend against their pending charges. There are a variety of options available to those who opt to take an OWI case to trial. Understanding the basis for OWI charges can be a good starting point for those preparing to work with an attorney to defend against them.