Iowa OWI Laws, Fines, and Consequences

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

In Iowa, the official term for driving under the influence (DUI) is “operating while intoxicated” (OWI). OWI is defined as operating a motor vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more
  • while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two, or
  • while any amount of a controlled substance is present in the person’s blood or urine.

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.

OWI Penalties

An OWI arrest typically leads to administrative (license related) penalties. And if the offender is subsequently convicted of OWI in court, there will also be criminal penalties on top of the administrative consequences.

Penalties for OWI Convictions

Iowa imposes mandatory minimum sentences for OWI convictions. The penalties increase depending on whether the driver has prior OWI convictions. The chart below details the minimum and maximum penalties for a first, second, and third OWI in Iowa.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

48 hours to 1 year

7 days to 2 years

30 days to 5 years

Fines

$625 to $1,250

$1,875 to $6,250

$3,125 to $9,375

License Revocation

180 days (if submitted to chemical testing and no previous OWI convictions or revocations) to 1 year (if refuse chemical testing and no previous OWI convictions or revocations)

1 year (if submitted to chemical testing and previous OWI convictions or revocations) to 2 years (if refuse chemical testing and previous OWI convictions or revocations)

6 years

Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

If seeking a temporary restrictive license (TRL), IID must be installed for the period of time the TRL is issued

1 year (reduced by any period of time that a TRL was held)

1 year (reduced by any period of time that a TRL was held)

Implied Consent and Refusing a Chemical Test 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 refuse testing face the following license revocation periods:

1st Offense

2nd offense

3rd Offense

License Revocation

1 year

2 years

2 years

A motorist whose license has been revoked will be assessed a $200 civil penalty.

Generally, a BAC of .08% or more is deemed a failed test. However, for a person who holds a commercial driver’s license, a BAC of .04% or more is considered a failed test. And for a person under 21 years of age, a BAC of .02% is a failed test. Motorists who fail a chemical test face the following license revocation periods:

1st Offense

2nd offense

3rd Offense

License Revocation

180 days

1 year

1 year

Other Penalties Imposed 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.

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.

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 posttreatment services.

Finally, when a person is convicted of OWI for a second or subsequent time, the court can order the vehicle used in the commission of the offense and owned by the defendant to be impounded or immobilized. The period of impoundment or immobilization is for the period the defendant’s license is revoked or 180 days, whichever period is longer.

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