Iowa OWI Laws and Penalties

Learn about the penalties—including fines, jail time, and license suspension—for an OWI conviction in Iowa.

By , Attorney · Thomas Jefferson School of Law

In Iowa, the official term for driving under the influence (DUI) is "operating while intoxicated" (OWI). This article covers how Iowa law defines OWI and the penalties you'll face for a first, second, and third OWI conviction.

Iowa's OWI Laws

OWI is defined as operating a motor vehicle:

Operating a vehicle. For purposes of Iowa's OWI law, "operate" is defined as the "immediate, actual physical control" of a vehicle that's in motion and/or the engine is running. Under that definition, a person can be convicted of OWI without actually driving a vehicle.

Under the influence. Driving with a BAC of .08% or more or any amount of a controlled substance in your body is a "per se" OWI violation. However, a driver can also be convicted of OWI based on being actually "under the influence" (impaired). Factors that may lead a judge or jury to conclude a driver was under the influence include:

  • evidence that the driver's reason or mental ability was affected
  • indications of impaired judgment
  • visible indication of excited emotions, and
  • the loss of control of bodily actions or motions.

But the facts of each case are different. So other factors can also be considered by the judge or jurors.

First-Offense OWI Penalties in Iowa

A DUI is considered a first offense if the driver has no prior convictions within the past 12 years. A first DUI is a "serious misdemeanor" in Iowa. A conviction typically carries:

  • 48 hours to one year in jail
  • a $1,250 fine, and
  • a 180-day license revocation.

For first offenders, the judge can waive all but $625 in fines in most circumstances.

Second-Offense OWI (Misdemeanor) Penalties in Iowa

A DUI is considered a third offense if the driver has one prior conviction within the past 12 years. A second DUI is an "aggravated misdemeanor" in Iowa. A conviction typically carries:

  • seven days to two years in jail
  • $1,875 to $6,250 in fines, and
  • a one-year license revocation.

For a second or subsequent conviction for OWI, the court can order the vehicle used to commit the offense to be impounded or immobilized. The period of impoundment or immobilization is for the period the offender's license is revoked or 180 days, whichever period is longer.

Third-Offense OWI (Felony) Penalties in Iowa

A DUI is considered a third offense if the driver has two prior convictions within the past 12 years. A third DUI is a "class D Felony" in Iowa. A conviction typically carries:

  • 30 days to five years in jail
  • $3,125 to $9,375 in fines, and
  • a six-year license revocation.

When a person is convicted of OWI for a third time, the court can order the vehicle used in the commission of the offense and owned by the defendant to be impounded or immobilized for 180 days.

Substance Abse Evaluations for OWI Convictions in Iowa

All offenders convicted of OWI must complete a substance abuse evaluation and recommended treatment. Upon second and subsequent convictions, the court can commit the defendant to an inpatient treatment program. But for any time spent in inpatient treatment, the defendant receives jail time credit. The judge can set the amount of time that treatment is required or leave it up to the treatment provider.

Educational Programs for OWI Offenders

Iowa's OWI laws also require offenders to complete a course for drinking drivers, and in some cases, a reality education substance abuse prevention program. The offender is usually responsible for all fees associated with treatment.

OWI Probation in Iowa

After completing the required treatment program, OWI offenders are typically placed on probation. As a condition of probation, the offender is required to complete a substance abuse prevention program or engage in post-treatment services.

Administrative License-Related Penalties Related to Alcohol Testing in Iowa

Iowa's "implied consent" law requires all drivers to submit to a breath, blood, and/or urine test if there are reasonable grounds to believe the person was OWI. Motorists who unlawfully refuse testing or fail a test face administrative license penalties. The penalties usually include license suspension and penalty fees.

Talk to an Attorney

It's basically never a good idea to represent yourself in a DUI case. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, get in contact with an attorney who can help you.

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