Iowa OWI/DWI: Refusal to Take a Blood, Breath or Urine Test

In Iowa, if you get pulled over for an OWI and the officer asks you to take a blood, breath, or urine test, do you have to take one? What happens if you refuse?

Implied Consent

Iowa law requires you to take a breath, blood, or urine test if you are arrested for an OWI. Iowa’s “implied consent” law says that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving under the influence, then you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC). The officer gets to choose which test you take, but you can refuse a blood test without penalty if you then submit to the officer’s second choice.

Additionally, Iowa law says that you consent to taking a preliminary breath test, even if you have not been arrested. This works like a field sobriety test. The officer will use the results to establish probable cause that you were driving under the influence. You do not have to take this preliminary test. Refusing it, however, probably won’t work in your favor if the officer has some other reason to think you had been drinking. Based on that other reason, the officer could still arrest you and then you will be required to take a test under the law described above.

Whether you refuse the preliminary breath test or not, if the officer wants to take an additional breath test or a blood or urine test instead, he or she must make a written request to have these tests taken. Afterwards, the officer has two hours from when he or she offered you the preliminary breath test or from the time of your arrest – whichever happened first – to provide a blood, breath or urine test for you to take. If you don’t get a test within that time, then you do not need to take any of the tests.

You can read Iowa’s implied consent law in Iowa Code Title VIII, Chapter 321J.6.

Refusing to Take the Test

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Refusal to take test

1 year license revocation

2 year license revocation

2 year license revocation

Once you refuse to take a test within the two-hour time limit, the officer may give you notice that Iowa’s Department of Transportation will suspend your license. If this is your first refusal, the suspension will last for one year. If you have had any prior refusals, your suspension will last for two years. After giving you notice of the suspension, the officer can take your license and give you one in its place that is good for ten days. If you want to challenge your suspension, then you need to request a hearing within those ten days. The officer should give you a form that you can use to do so.

Even if you do not request a hearing, you might be able to drive before the term of your suspension ends. After completing 90 days of the suspension, you can apply for a temporary restricted license. You will need to install an ignition interlock device on your car, however.

The penalties for refusing to submit to a chemical test are found in Iowa Code Title VIII, Chapter 321J.9. To read more about the hearing process, read Iowa Code Title VIII, Chapter 321J.13.

Should You Refuse to Take a Mandatory OWI Test in Iowa?

It usually does not help you to refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test when you are arrested for an OWI. In Iowa, the consequences for refusal are milder than those for an OWI, which include jail time, a fine of $1,250 for a first offense, and an assignment for substance abuse evaluation and possibly treatment. Refusing the test does not guarantee that you won’t be convicted – you can still be found guilty of an OWI even if your refusal means that the state does not have proof that your BAC was over.08%, the legal limit for those over 21. In fact, the prosecution can use your refusal against you by arguing that you refused the test because you knew that you were intoxicated and guilty of OWI.

(Check out our blood alcohol content chart for an estimate of how many drinks it takes to get to the legal limit.)

Get Help With Your OWI

If you have been arrested on an OWI charge in Iowa or any other state, get help from an experienced OWI attorney. Unlike other traffic related charges, which might be worth fighting without a lawyer, conviction for an OWI has serious consequences – especially if the incident involved injury to people or property, or if it’s your second or subsequent OWI. To avoid or reduce the consequences, your best bet is to find an attorney who is knowledgeable about your state’s laws and about how the system works in your county’s court.

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