UNDERSTANDING IOWA’S OWI LAWS
Operating While Intoxicated often referred to as an OWI, DUI or DWI or simply, drunk driving. OWI’s are common around the State and can affect people from all different walks of life.
Under the laws of the State of Iowa, a conviction for Operating While Intoxicated requires the prosecution to prove that:
A person operated a motor vehicle, and
At the time of operation, the person was either:
- Under the influence of alcohol and/or drug, or
- Had an alcohol concentration in excess of .08, or
- Had any amount of controlled substance present in their system.
Being arrested for an OWI does not mean being convicted for an OWI. A conviction will result only when you plead guilty or are found guilty by a jury of your peers. To find guilt, the prosecution must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
DEFENSES FOR IOWA’S OWI LAWS
Police are not free to stop and investigate on mere suspicion alone. Police investigative authority is limited by both the Iowa and United States Constitutions and certain code sections under Iowa Law. The following are some examples:
- Police must have a reason to pull you over
An officer cannot pull over a vehicle to simply check if you are intoxicated. Police must have a legitimate and sufficient basis to make a traffic stop. This may include observing a traffic violation like speeding, failure to stop at a traffic light or not having operational taillights or headlights. Police may observe characteristics of operating a vehicle that are consistent with drunk driving, such was weaving and may initiate a traffic stop for erratic driving.
- Police have to observe signs of intoxication
After police pull over a vehicle, they will be gathering evidence of intoxication. In cases where the prosecution does not evidence of a breath, blood or urine test for alcohol, they rely on the observations and statements of police officers. Often police will note whether someone smells like alcohol, has bloodshot watery eyes, or slurred speech. Police will be observing the driver’s movement, whether they look nervous or act in a manner that’s consistent with intoxication. Police will often ask drivers if they will participate in field sobriety tests, which will be scrutinized for the smallest of mistakes. Persons being investigated for OWI often do not know they have the right to refuse field sobriety tests when an officer asks.
- Police must follow certain procedures to request a sample of breath, urine, or blood for alcohol testing.
After police determine they have enough information to arrest someone for OWI, they will make a request of a person’s breath, urine or blood so they can determine the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Before making a request, police must allow a person who is under arrest the opportunity to make phone calls to a family member and an attorney. If a person wishes to visit with an attorney, police must give a reasonable amount of time for a meeting to occur. A person arrested for OWI has the option of requesting a separate sample to be taken by someone besides the police. Police all must read a detailed warning or advisory about the options and consequences of providing a breath, blood or urine sample
Penalties for OWI:
First Offense (Serious Misdemeanor)
Mandatory Min. Jail Time If under .15 and no accident
· 2 days
- possibly no jail
- deferred judgement
If over .15 or refused the Datamaster test
· 2 days
· not eligible for deferred
Mandatory Min. Jail Fine $1250 plus 35% surcharge $1250 plus 35% surcharge Maximum Jail 1 Year 1 Year License Suspension 6 months 1 year Ignition Interlock Always Always CDL Lifetime Lifetime
Second Offense (Aggravated Misdemeanor)
Mandatory Min. Jail Time 7 days 7 days Mandatory Min. Jail Fine $1850 plus 35% surcharge $1850 plus 35% surcharge Maximum Prison Time 2 Years 2 Years License Suspension 1 Year 2 Years
Third or Subsequent Offense (Class D Felony)
Mandatory Min. Jail Time 30 days 30 days Mandatory Min. Jail Fine $3125 plus 35% surcharge $3125 plus 35% surcharge Maximum Prison Time 5 Years 5 Years