Iowa: Underage DUI

The drinking age in Iowa is 21 and consumption of alcohol by anyone under 21 is illegal with the following exceptions:

  • on private, non alcohol-selling premises, with consent of a legal guardian -- for example, with legal guardian’s permission at a party, or
  • for medical purposes – for example, a physician administering a medical treatment

Although drivers under 21 make up approximately 10% of licensed drivers, they account for 14% of DUI related fatalities in Iowa. Because underage drinkers cause a disproportionate number of alcohol-related auto fatalities, the standards are stricter and the penalties may be harsher for those under 21.

More information about Iowa’s teen driving requirements.

What constitutes driving under the influence?

If a chemical test determines that a driver under 21 has a BAC of .02% or higher, the driver can be cited for driving under the influence. (For those 21 or older, the BAC is .08%). Note, in Iowa, a DUI is referred to as an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated)

What are the penalties?

If First Drunk Driving Conviction: If the BAC is in excess of .02 but less than .08, an under-21 driver will have a license suspension for six months and the driver is not eligible for a temporary restricted license for 60 days from the start of the suspension. If the BAC is over .08%, the driver is subject to imprisonment (2 days up to 1 year), fine ($625 to $1,250), license suspension (180 days)(more information: First Offense OWI in Iowa).

If Second Drunk Driving Conviction within 12 Years: imprisonment (7 days up to 2 years jail) fine ($1,875-$6,250) license suspension (2 years). (More Information: Second Offense OWI in Iowa.)

What if you refuse the chemical test? If a person under 21 is suspected of operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol level of .02 or more, and refuses chemical testing, the driver's license suspension will be one year for a first violation and two years on a second or subsequent violation. The driver is not eligible for a temporary restricted license at any time during the revocation period. Read about Iowa implied consent laws.

What other charges?

In addition to driving under the influence, an underage drinker may be charged with any of the following:

  • distributing alcohol to other minors (were there underage drunk passengers?),
  • minor in possession,
  • soliciting alcohol,
  • child endangerment law violations,
  • possession of false identification (was a fake id used to purchase alcohol?), and
  • moving and vehicle maintenance violations (what else did the arresting officer see?).

What happens to insurance?

Some insurance companies may terminate a policy after an underage DUI (while others refuse to renew). Most companies simply raise the cost of the monthly premium by $100 to $200 (sometimes higher) for a higher risk policy. The raise usually stays in place for three to five years. You’ll also probably need to furnish the DMV with an SR-22 certificate to reinstate a license after suspension (as proof of insurability). Most insurance companies furnish this form to the DMV. Check with your insurer to see if it performs this service.

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