What Are the Iowa Drunk Driving Laws (OWI) and Penalties? (With Chart)

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In the state of Iowa, an act of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is called Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). This offense carries penalties that involve jail time, fines, driver's license suspension and installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). An individual convicted of an Iowa OWI also must pay court costs, undergo a substance abuse evaluation and any recommended treatment, and attend drunk driving school. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, an offense is considered an OWI if the driver is operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above.

An offense is also considered an OWI if the driver is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, a drug, a combination of these substances, or operating a motor vehicle while having any amount of a controlled substance in one’s body. Iowa Code Chapter 124 defines cannabis as a controlled substance. An individual can be convicted of an OWI for sleeping while intoxicated in a vehicle that is running.

Penalties for an Iowa OWI

First OWI

Second OWI

Third OWI

Incarceration

Between 48 hours and 1 year in county jail

Between 7 days and 2 years in county jail

Between 30 days in county jail and 5 years in state prison

Fine

up to $1,250

Between $1,875 and $6,250

Between $3,125 and $9,375

License Revocation Period

Between 180 days and 1 year

1 year driver’s license revocation

6 years driver’s license revocation

Ignition Interlock Device

6 months if BAC requires it for a temporary restricted license

1 year following revocation period as a condition to reinstate a driver’s license

1 year following revocation period as a condition to reinstate a driver’s license

Iowa Code Chapter 321J

First Iowa OWI Penalties

The penalty for a first-time offender convicted of OWI includes a mandatory minimum period of imprisonment in a county jail of 48 hours, with the maximum period not to exceed one year, according to Iowa Code Chapter 321J. The penalty further includes a fine up to $1,250, a 180-day loss of driving privileges, the requirement to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and recommended treatment, and a possible six-month period of probation after the completion of any program. A first Iowa OWI is considered a serious misdemeanor.

When a driver has committed a first offense, and no personal or property injury has resulted from the offender’s actions, the court may waive up to $625 of the fine if the defendant presents to the court a temporary restricted license (TRL). A driver is immediately eligible for a TRL without the requirement to install an IID on their vehicle if their BAC was between 0.08 percent and 0.10 percent. A driver is eligible for a TRL with an IID to remain in place for six months if their BAC was between 0.10 percent and 0.15 percent. A driver is eligible for a TRL after 30 days with an IID to remain in place for six months if their BAC was 0.15 percent or above.

Second Iowa OWI Penalties

The penalty for a second offense OWI includes a jail sentence of seven days minimum to two years maximum, a fine between $1,875 and $6,250, a one-year driver’s license revocation, the requirement to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and recommended treatment, and a possible six-month period of probation after the completion of any program. A second Iowa OWI conviction is considered an aggravated misdemeanor. A driver is eligible for a restricted license after a one-year revocation period.

The offender must install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, which must remain in place for one year. A judge may order the vehicle involved in the OWI to be impounded or immobilized. The period of impoundment or immobilization is the period of license revocation or 180 days, whichever is longer.

Third Iowa OWI Penalties

The penalty for a third Iowa OWI conviction includes an incarceration period of between 30 days in county jail to five years in state prison, a fine between $3,125 and $9,375, a six-year driver’s license revocation, the requirement to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and recommended treatment, and a possible six-month period of probation after any program. A third offense OWI is considered a class D felony. This is the least serious type of felony in Iowa.

The offender must install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, which must remain in place for one year. A judge may order the vehicle involved in the OWI to be impounded or immobilized. The vehicle will be affected for the period of license revocation or 180 days, whichever is longer.

Iowa’s Implied Consent Law

An individual who operates a motor vehicle in Iowa gives implied consent to have a blood, breath or urine test performed on them. The point of the chemical test is to determine the driver’s alcohol level or the presence of drugs in their body when a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe the driver is operating the vehicle under the influence. A driver who engages in a first chemical test refusal will suffer a one-year driver’s license revocation.

A first-time refuser who requests a restricted driver’s license may be eligible after 90 days revocation and must install an IID. A driver who engages in a second chemical test refusal will suffer a two-year driver’s license revocation. A second-time refuser who requests a restricted driver’s license may be eligible after a one-year revocation and must install an IID.

Additional Penalties Under Iowa OWI Law

In order to get a temporary restricted license, a driver must pay a $200 civil penalty to the Iowa Department of Transportation. An individual convicted of an OWI in Iowa will be required to pay court costs and restitution (compensation to a victim) if the offense involved bodily injury to a person other than themselves or property damage. Further, the driver may be required to pay restitution to public agencies for the emergency response cost for damages resulting directly from the offense, according to Iowa Code 321J.

An individual convicted of an OWI is also required to complete a course for drunk driving. According to the Iowa Department of Education, in some cases, the court may allow or require the offender to complete the jail time and drinking driver course in a single program called the 48-hour program or weekend program. Iowa does not accept online drinking driver courses.

Understanding Surcharges

If the court assesses a fine for a driver convicted of OWI, the driver will have to pay a surcharge, an additional charge for this penalty, according to the Iowa Legislative Guide for OWI. The surcharge is 35 percent of the fine. The driver may also have to pay a separate drug abuse resistance education (DARE) surcharge.

Iowa’s OWI Lookback Period

Iowa considers an OWI to be a subsequent OWI if it is committed within 12 years from the date of sentencing on the prior conviction to the date of the current charge. A DUI or DWI incurred in another state will count as a second or subsequent OWI if the offense involved operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above, while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, a drug, a combination of these substances, or while having a controlled substance in one’s body. If the DUI or DWI incurred outside of Iowa occurred more than 12 years before the current OWI committed in Iowa, Iowa will not consider the offense to count as a prior OWI.

Iowa Habitual Offender Status

According to the Iowa Driver’s License Manual, a driver convicted of a third or subsequent OWI may be sentenced as a habitual offender. The court can impose additional sentencing terms and conditions on habitual offenders. An individual who is caught driving after being barred as a habitual offender can be imprisoned for as long as two years.

Underage OWI Offense Penalties

Iowa has a zero tolerance policy for underage drunk drivers. It is illegal for a driver under the age of 21 to drive with a BAC of between 0.02 percent and 0.08 percent, according to the Iowa Legislative Guide for OWI. A driver who violates the Iowa Code with regard to this statute will suffer a driver’s license revocation of 60 days for a first offense and 90 days for a second or subsequent offense.

This penalty is an administrative penalty, not a criminal penalty. If a driver under 21 refuses a chemical test, their driver’s license will be revoked for one year for a first violation and two years for a second violation.