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DUI & DWI in Iowa

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Not many people know that drinking alcohol cuts your night vision in half and reduces your peripheral vision by up to one-third. And although they might make you feel good, barbiturates and other illegal drugs―and even many legal ones―actually substantially decrease your reaction time and mental alertness.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs can be very risky.

Operating while under the influence (OWI) endangers your own safety as well as the lives of those around you. If you are arrested for operating a motor vehicle while drugged or intoxicated, you may be charged with an OWI.

According to Iowa law, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or street drugs. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is tested and found to be 0.08% or more, you will be arrested. For those under 21 years old the limit is 0.02%.

Sometimes Iowa residents refer to an OWI conviction as a DUI (driving under the influence) or a DWI (driving while intoxicated). While the terms may be different, they are the same offense under the law.

Implied Consent Law

Iowa is one of many states that have an implied consent law. This means that you must submit to a blood, breath, or urine test if a law enforcement officer believes you have been drinking and driving.

If you refuse, your license will be taken away immediately for 1 year for your 1st violation and 2 years for any subsequent violations. You will also need to attend a drunk-driver course and be evaluated and possibly treated for substance abuse.

Consequences for Failing a Chemical Test

It's pretty bad news to fail a chemical test. The combination of loss of driving privileges, required counseling, and other penalties affects every facet of your life. In addition to what you may face with criminal OWI charges, if you fail a chemical test you will have your license suspended by Department of Transportation. This is known as an Administrative license suspension. If you fail a chemical test:

1st offense: You will lose your license for 180 days. You are also subject to criminal penalties and fines if convicted of a OWI.

2nd offense: If it is your 2nd offense within 12 years, you will lose your license for 1 year. You may also face additional criminal penalties and fines if convicted.

3rd offense: A 3rd offense within a 12 years will result in revocation of your license for 6 years, in addition to criminal penalties if convicted of an OWI.

If you are under 21 years old:

1st offense: You will lose your license for 60 days.

2nd and subsequent offenses: You will lose your license for 90 days.

No one under 18 years old is permitted to apply for a temporary restricted license.

In addition to losing your driving privileges, you will also need to complete a course for drinking drivers and undergo a substance abuse evaluation or treatment program―whether this is your third offense or your first. Iowa law requires that you pay for these services at your own expense. You'll also be hit with a $200 civil penalty.

If you are caught driving while your license is revoked(whether it was a criminal revocation or Administrative suspension), you'll be charged with another misdemeanor and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

If you are a new Iowa resident, it's important to realize that OWI convictions in other states will count against you when the DOT considers what action to take regarding your license.

To learn more about Iowa's OWI laws, download the OWI handout prepared by the Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division.

Ignition Interlock Device

In some cases those who fail a chemical test and have their licenses suspended can apply for a temporary restricted license. In order to receive a temporary restricted license you will be required to have a Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed on your vehicle. Only companies approved by the Division of Criminal Investigation can be used to install and maintain your IID.

Getting Your License Back

Before you even apply to have your driver's license reinstated, you must fulfill all the requirements of the Administrative suspension. This may includes:

  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment programs.
  • The course for drinking drivers.
  • Ignition Interlock Device requirements.
  • Paid fees.

If required you'll need to show proof of your financial responsibility by filing an insurance SR-22 form with the Office of Driver Services. You'll also need to take the knowledge test, driving exam, and vision screening to be issued a new Iowa driver's license.

An OWI license revocation will remain on your driving record for 12 years. In addition to resulting in substantially higher auto insurance rates, this may also disqualify you from certain types of employment.

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