Iowa DUI Law

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Iowa DWI video transcription

In Iowa please remember that you may be eligible for a deferred judgment if you did not refuse the direct breath test at the station, if your blood alcohol level was under .15 if you have no prior conviction or deferred judgment for OWI or DWI, and there was no bodily injury to another person. That’s why it’s important to speak with a DUI attorney and to discuss what options are available to you.

Iowa OWI / DWI (Somtimes referred as DUI) arrests give rise to two separate and distinct drunk driving cases: the court case, and Iowa Motor Vehicle Division Case, where the person's driving privileges are at risk. An Iowa OWI / DWI can have severe consequences, and it is critical than anyone accused of drinking and driving in Iowa consult with an Iowa DUI LAWS lawyer near you for a free consultation by calling 1.800.DWI.LAWS.

Iowa OWI / DWI cases are brought pursuant to the Iowa OWI / DWI code. Iowa Code section 321J.2 prohibits an individual from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. A separate (but related) offense is driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC or BAL) of .08% or greater.

Iowa OWI / DWI law requires that a defendant's guilt be proved beyond a reasonable doubt; if there is a reasonable doubt as to any of the elements of the prosecutor's case, the defendant in an Iowa drunk driving case is entitled to a verdict of "not guilty." Iowa OWI / DWI convictions cannot be obtained unless the prosecution proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the OWI / DWI arrestee:

  1. Operated a motor vehicle;
  2. While under the influence of alcohol or drugs; OR
  3. While having an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

Iowa drunk driving cases often hinge on precise legal definitions. "Operating" for purposes of Iowa OWI / DWI (drunk driving) law has been defined by the Iowa Supreme Court as: "the immediate, actual physical control over a motor vehicle that is in motion and/or has its engine running." Thus, sitting in a vehicle, even with the keys in the ignition, so long as the engine is not running, does not and cannot constitute "operating." This is an important point for anyone accused of drunk driving in Iowa. An essential element of an Iowa OWI charge is that the defendant be the operator of the vehicle. Otherwise, a drunk driving conviction is legally improper.

OWI / DWI convictions carry serious consequences, both with the court and the Iowa Motor Vehicles Division. It is important to remember that Iowa OWI / DWI arrests trigger two separate actions, and that an Iowa drunk driving defense lawyer will know how to handle the interrelationship between these two entities.

Iowa OWI / DWI convictions have the following consequences in criminal court:

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First Offense First Offense OWI / DWI :

Serious Misdemeanor: Punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.

Mandatory Minimum Penalty: 2 days in jail and a $1,250 fine plus 32% government surcharge of $400.

Iowa OWI LAWSNote: you may be eligible for a deferred judgment if: you did not refuse the direct breath test at the station; your BAC was under .15; you have no prior conviction or deferred judgment for OWI / DWI; and there was no bodily injury to another person.

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Second Offense Second Offense OWI / DWI :

Aggravated Misdemeanor: Punishable by up to 2 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Mandatory Minimum Penalty: 7 days in jail and a fine of at least $1,850.

Iowa OWI LAWSOWI / DWI convictions and deferred judgments in the last 12 years in any state are counted as prior offenses.

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Third Offense Third Offense OWI / DWI:

Class D Felony: Punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $7,500.

Mandatory Minimum Penalty: 30 days in jail and a fine of $3,125

Iowa OWI LAWSThis is the highest level of OWI / DWI obtainable in the State of Iowa. All subsequent OWI / DWI convictions after the 3rd OWI / DWI offense are counted as 3rd OWI / DWI offenses.

Iowa OWI / DWI arrests also trigger an administrative action where the driver's license may be suspended or revoked. It is very important that anyone arrested for OWI / DWI, or any drunk driving charge in Iowa, contact an Iowa OWI / DWI lawyer as soon as possible.

A skilled Iowa OWI / DWI attorney will know how to handle the administrative hearing to protect the driving privileges of anyone arrested for drinking and driving in Iowa. There are different administrative penalties, depending upon whether it is a first offense OWI / DWI, second offense OWI / DWI, or third offense OWI / DWI. Also, the penalties may change depending upon the blood alcohol level (BAL) or whether a chemical test was taken or refused. Administrative penalties for Iowa OWI / DWI arrests, separate and apart from any drunk driving conviction in criminal court, are as follows:

Administrative revocations for test failure - Breath test indicates BAC over .08.

First Offense Violations First Offense OWI / DWI Violations:

  • 180 day revocation
  • Eligible for temporary license immediately as long as there was not an accident causing personal injury or property damage and the chemical test results are under .15.
  • Must wait 30 days for temporary license if the chemical test results are over .15 or an accident occurred.
  • Must get an ignition interlock device installed if BAC is greater than .10 or an accident occurred in order to obtain a temporary license.

Iowa OWI LAWSIgnition interlock devices must be put on all vehicles owned and operated by a person seeking a temporary license.

Subsequent Offenses Subsequent OWI / DWI Offenses:

  • 1 year revocation
  • Not eligible for a temporary license for 1 year
  • Must get ignition interlock device to obtain a temporary license

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Administrative revocations for test refusal

Fist Offense First OWI / DWI Offense:

Subsequent Offenses Subsequent OWI / DWI Offenses:

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Revocation upon conviction if not revoked otherwise:

First Offense First OWI / DWI Offense:

  • 180 days
  • Temporary license and ignition interlock restrictions and requirements are the same as if revoked administratively for both test failures and refusals

Subsequent Offenses Subsequent OWI / DWI Offenses:

  • 2 years
  • Same requirements and restrictions for temporary license and blow and go as if revoked administratively for both test failures and refusals.

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Revocations when a deferred judgment is entered

  • Revocation for 30-90 days
  • Requirements and restrictions for temporary license and ignition interlock device are the same as for an administrative revocation for a first offense.

Court Ordered Revocation in addition to previously mentioned administrative and court ordered revocations

Third and Subsequent Offenses Third and Subsequent OWI / DWI Offenses:

Any level of offense Any level of offense causing personal injury

Any level of offense causing death Any level of offense causing death

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Zero Tolerance revocations/Under 21 years of age

.02 to .08 Test Failure .02 to .08 Test Failure

  • 60 days for first offense
  • 90 days for subsequent offenses

Refusals Refusals

  • 1 year for first offense
  • 2 years for subsequent offenses

Iowa OWI LAWSNever eligible for a temporary license under zero tolerance statute

Expungement in Iowa

Currently, there is no provision for the expungement of an OWI conviction from a criminal record in Iowa. If you have been arrested for operating while intoxicated (OWI) or other drunk driving charges, it is critical to consult with a qualified Iowa OWI attorney as soon as possible.

Please note: Laws change frequently and thus the information provided should not be relied upon as legal advice. To be certain, contact a criminal defense attorney for a legal assistance. is not liable for any misinformation that users obtain from using this site. Accessibility Statement

Updated: March 2019.

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