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In Iowa, drunk driving is called operating while intoxicated (OWI, often called DUI). This is a serious offense. Even though people from all walks of life with no criminal history make the mistake of driving under the influence, the state of Iowa prosecutes OWI aggressively. If you have been charged with OWI, you need an experienced defense attorney who can walk you through the legal process and defend you against these charges.
At Spellman Law, P.C., we limit our practice areas to OWI and other criminal defense matters so that our clients get the most focused representation possible. Our attorneys will give you an honest assessment of your case and defend you from OWI charges.
The OWI/DUI Process
We will handle all aspects of your drunk driving case, from the free initial consultation through the trial and administrative hearings. Most OWI cases look something like this:
- Step 1 – Filing for an appeal with the Iowa DOT: If you have been charged with an OWI, the Iowa Department of Transportation allows you to file for an appeal of your driver’s license revocation within ten days. If an appeal is not filed with the DOT, your driver’s license revocation will commence at the conclusion of the ten days.
- Step 2 – Preparation for a criminal trial: We will look at the severity of the offense (which is determined in part by whether it is a first, second or subsequent OWI offense), the nature and circumstances of the stop that led to the charge, and the investigation itself. We will explore all the reports, videos and breathalyzer calibration logs – looking for any way to minimize or invalidate the charges brought against you in preparation for trial.
- Step 3 – Criminal trial and administrative hearings: We will handle every aspect of your criminal trial and the corresponding DOT administrative driver’s license revocation hearings.
Actions To Take At Your OWI Stop
Knowing what to do – and what not to do – during an OWI stop relates to understanding how police collect evidence during the interaction. Here are several key actions to take during your stop:
- Be cooperative, but not talkative. Do not answer direct or even casual questions about what you were doing, deferring all interviews until you have spoken with a lawyer.
- Decline to take field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test at the stop. These tests are voluntary. However, be aware you may be arrested and taken to the police station for further testing.
- Ask to speak to an attorney in confidence immediately. The police are required to let you attempt to reach your lawyer before performing a breath or other test to determine blood alcohol content at the station.
- Remain observant of police activities throughout the stop. Take notes if you can, and document any potential unlawful searches of your car by police.
Of these actions, calling your attorney is perhaps the most crucial. Our legal team can visit you at the police station if needed and be present for questioning and other procedures.
What To Do After An OWI
If you have been pulled over and charged with an OWI (operating while intoxicated), then you need to take steps to prepare your defense. Here are some steps you can take to help defend against the charges.
You Have The Right To Remain Silent
First, as with any criminal charge, you have an absolute right to remain silent in order to avoid making any incriminating statements against yourself. By the time you are reading this, it may be too late. However, if you are in a situation where you need to give a statement, be sure to contact a lawyer before you speak with anyone.
Take Notes, Gather Information
For your own personal recollection, take notes about what occurred before, during and after the event in question. Memory can fail us later and these details may be critical to your defense. You may also want to take pictures of any relevant scene, vehicle or location. If there are witnesses who can help provide information or testimony, it may be important to include their contact information. Be sure to give all of this information to your attorney.
Meet With An Attorney Right Away
There are many reasons to meet with an OWI/DUI lawyer immediately after you have been charged on suspicion of OWI/DUI. In addition to the right against self-incrimination, there are other important considerations. There is a civil administrative proceeding for driver’s license revocation with separate timelines.
In addition, the sooner after the event, the better prepared your lawyer can be for any subsequent court appearances. An attorney can learn more about the evidence against you – such as the breathalyzer, field sobriety tests, the circumstances of your DUI arrest, search and seizure issues – in order to develop legal defenses. Your attorney may advise you against making incriminating statements on social media and advise you on steps to take before your criminal proceeding continues – steps that may mitigate your consequences.
First Vs. Second OWI Offenses In Iowa
Like other states, Iowa increases the penalties for drinking and driving if it is not the defendant’s first offense. In the Hawkeye State, a first conviction for OWI means a jail sentence of at least 48 hours and up to one year, and a driver’s license suspension lasting between 180 days and a year. The judge can impose a fine of up to $1,250 or require community service, and require the defendant to submit to substance abuse evaluation and a drunk driving course.
A second offense raises the charge to an aggravated misdemeanor and increases the minimum jail term to seven days, with a maximum of two years behind bars. You will lose your license for one or two years and pay $1,875-6,250 in fines. A third lifetime offense is a Class D felony punishable by 30 days to five years in prison and a license revocation lasting six years. Whatever your prior record is, you need to begin confronting an OWI as soon as possible after your arrest.
OWI Cases Are Complicated
OWI cases are very technical, especially those involving subsequent OWI offenses. Our founding attorney, Sean P. Spellman, has experience finding constitutional violations and other ways that arresting officers fail to comply with the law.
Contact Our Firm Today | Free Initial Consultations
Sometimes, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way to ease your concerns after receiving OWI charges. Call our office in West Des Moines at 515-222-4330. You may also reach us online to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. We assist clients throughout central Iowa.