Iowa uses the acronym of OWI rather than DUI for the offense
of driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or
alcohol. An OWI carries with it the same range of punishments as DUI in other
states. Drivers convicted of this offense can lose their driving privileges and
also face serving time in jail or prison.
The best way to avoid a DUI in Iowa is by knowing what the
legal blood alcohol content limits are for each category of driver. It also
helps motorists to know how this crime is punished by the state’s courts.
OWI in Iowa
As in most states, the per se BAC limit in Iowa is 0.08
percent or higher. This blood alcohol content applies to drivers who are 21
years of age and older and operate privately owned vehicles.
Commercial drivers including bus drivers are held to a lower
BAC level. They can be arrested for OWI in Iowa if they have BACs of 0.04
percent or higher.
The state’s zero-tolerance law for underage drivers mandates
that drivers under the age of 21 have BACs lower than 0.02 percent to avoid
being arrested for OWI. The underage OWI law applies to operating motor
vehicles like mopeds and water skis.
In Iowa, the law also allows for an aggravated or enhanced
OWI charge. The criteria for this offense involves causing serious injury or
death to a third party while operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
OWI Penalties in Iowa
Iowa judges use a variety of penalties to address OWI in the
state. These consequences include serving jail sentences and paying monetary
A first-time OWI offender in Iowa can face serving 48 hours
to one year in jail. He or she can also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1250
and have his or her drivers’ license revoked for 180 days to one year.
A second OWI conviction in Iowa garners a jail term of seven
days to two years. The fine can range from $1875 to $6250. The person’s drivers’
license can also be revoked for up to two years.
A third OWI results in a prison sentence of at least five
years. The fines can range from $3225 to $9375. The person’s license can be
revoked for up to six years.
Enhanced or aggravated OWIs are met with harsher penalties.
People convicted of an aggravated OWI in Iowa can have their licenses revoked
for an additional year on top of the regular OWI penalties that they receive.
They can also have their licenses taken away for an additional six years if
they caused the death of someone else while operating while intoxicated.
The state also uses strict laws to discourage commercial drivers
from operating their vehicles wihle intoxicated. Commercial drivers convicted
of this offense cannot drive a commercial vehicle for a year after a first
charge. If they transport hazardous materials, they cannot drive for three
If they are convicted of an OWI for a second or subsequent
time, commercial drivers are disqualified from driving commercial vehicles for
life. However, this revocation can be lifted after 10 years if the drivers meet
All OWI offenders in Iowa, regardless of their age or
classification, must undergo a substance abuse consultation. They also must
participate in a reality education substance abuse prevention program. Further,
a judge can add on a $500 per agency charge if an OWI offender required the
The OWI offender must make restitution to these agencies as
part of his or her penalty.
Underage OWI in Iowa
Iowa prohibits minors under the age of 21 from operating a
motor vehicle while intoxicated. Drivers under this age cannot have a BAC of
0.02 percent or higher. If they are arrested for OWI in the state, underage drivers
face the same range of penalties as adult OWI offenders.
Further, underage OWI offenders cannot apply for a
restricted license during the time that their licenses are suspended. They also
have to take part in the Iowa Youthful Offender Substance Abuse Program. This
program involves tours of hospitals, emergency rooms, and morgues to
demonstrate the dangers of OWI.
Implied Consent in Iowa
Implied consent requires motorists in Iowa to comply with
chemical testing to determine their BAC if they are arrested for OWI. This law
applies to motorists who:
lawfully arrested for OWI
injury or death to another person while driving intoxicated
to take a preliminary breath test or PBT
- Have a
PBT indicate a BAC of 0.08 or higher
- Have a
PBT that indicates a BAC of 0.08 but the officer suspects the presence of
Refusing to take a chemical test to determine one’s BAC can
result in penalties like a loss of one’s license for up to one year. If the
person has a prior OWI on his or her record, he or she could lose driving
privileges for up to two years and pay a fine of $200.
The arresting officer can also seize the person’s drivers’
license and issue a temporary 10-day permit. To get the regular license back,
the arrested individual must request and go through a state administrative
hearing. He or she will also have to pay a $200 fine to the state and have an
ignition interlock device or IID installed on his or her vehicle.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is called
Operating While Intoxicated in Iowa. Regardless of the acronym, the offense
carries with it penalties that range from jail or prison terms to civil fines
and loss of driving privileges.
The OWI laws in Iowa extend to everyone who operates a motor
vehicle in the state. The allowable BAC levels for each category of driver in
Iowa differ and carry different consequences when these limits are exceeded.