When Iowa’s DUI Implied Consent Law Requires Drivers to Take a Blood, Breath, or Urine Test

If you are stopped in Iowa for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, can you refuse BAC testing?

By , Attorney · Thomas Jefferson School of Law

In most DUI cases, the arresting officer will request that the driver take a breath, blood, or urine test. The results of these tests can provide prosecutors with strong evidence to convict the driver in court. But what happens if a driver refuses to take an alcohol or a drug test? That's where Iowa's implied consent law comes into play.

This article explains Iowa's implied consent law and the consequences for refusing a blood, breath, or urine test.

Iowa's Implied Consent Law: When Drivers Must Agree to Testing

Under Iowa's implied consent law, a person who operates a motor vehicle is generally deemed to have given consent to a chemical test of breath, blood, and/or urine. However, the law compels drivers to agree to testing only if the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to believe he or she was "operating while intoxicated" (OWI).

Circumstances Where Iowa Officers Can Request a Breathalyzer or BAC Test

An officer is authorized to request a chemical test if there are reasonable grounds to believe the person is OWI and:

Under any of these circumstances, a driver's refusal to test is considered a violation of the state's implied consent law.

Iowa Officers Must Request a Breathalyzer or DUI Testing Within a Two-Hour Time Frame

The test must be requested within two hours after the PBT is administered, refused, or the arrest is made, whichever occurs first. If the officer fails to request a chemical test within that time frame, a driver isn't required to submit to any test.

Officers Generally Get to Choose Which Test the Driver Must Take

Once a driver is under arrest for OWI, the officer generally gets to decide whether to request a breath, blood, or urine test. However, a driver who agrees to take a breath or urine test can typically refuse a blood test without penalty.

Consequences of Refusing a Breathalyzer or Other Test in Iowa

Before administering a chemical test, the officer must advise drivers of the consequences of failing and refusing a test. Consequences of refusing a test include license revocation, a civil penalty, and ineligibility for a deferred judgment. Evidence of the refusal can also be used against a defendant at trial.

Administrative Suspension for a Breathalyzer or DUI Test Refusal in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend an offender's driving privileges for one year for refusing a chemical test. If the driver has previous OWI license revocations, the suspension is for two years. A person whose license has been revoked will be assessed a $200 civil penalty.

When a driver refuses to take a chemical test, the arresting officer can immediately take the person's license and issue a temporary ten-day license. A driver whose license has been revoked for refusing a chemical test is entitled to contest the revocation at an administrative hearing.

The offender may apply for a temporary restricted license but must first pay the $200 civil penalty and install an ignition interlock device (IID) in all vehicles the offender owns or operates.

Evidence of Refusal Can Be Used Against a Defendant in an Iowa Criminal Court

Another consequence of refusing a chemical test is that the prosecutor is allowed to present evidence of the refusal in the criminal case and can suggest to the judge or jury that the refusal is evidence of guilt. In other words, the prosecutor can argue that you refused the test because you knew you would fail.

Iowa Drivers Who Refuse Testing are Ineligibility for a Deferred Adjudication

Successful completion of the deferred adjudication program results in an OWI charge being dismissed and allows an offender to avoid mandatory penalties including jail time and fines. A chemical test refusal renders drivers ineligible for a deferred judgment.

Deciding Whether to a Breathalyzer or DUI Chemical Test in Iowa

A driver can refuse to submit to chemical testing, but the penalties for refusing are generally more severe than those for failing a test: The durations of license revocations for test refusals are usually twice as long as revocations for test failures.

There are also circumstances allowing police to administer a chemical test without the driver's consent. Generally, if an OWI arrest resulted from an accident causing death or personal injury likely to cause death, a chemical test can be administered without the consent of the person arrested. In other situations, police can obtain a search warrant to get a sample of a driver's breath, blood, or urine without consent.

Talk to an Iowa DUI Lawyer

DUI law is complicated and the facts of each case are unique. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence in Iowa, it's a good idea to get in contact with a knowledgeable DUI lawyer. A qualified attorney can review your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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