Iowa Drugged Driving Laws

Learn about the penalties for driving while impaired by drugs and other substances.

Operating while intoxicated (OWI) is illegal in Iowa regardless of whether the driver's intoxication is the result of ingesting drugs or alcohol. Also, Iowa has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the operation of a vehicle after consuming any controlled substance. Read on to find out how drugs or medications can result in an OWI as well the associated penalties of a conviction.

How Drug Use Can Lead to an OWI Charge

Iowa prohibits operating while intoxicated (also called "DUI") by alcohol or drugs or with any amount of a controlled substance in your system.

What qualifies as intoxication. Generally, a driver is considered intoxicated if the substance ingested affects his or her reasoning or mental ability. During an investigation, the officer will often look for symptoms and side effects of different drugs—things like twitching, drowsiness, and dry mouth. To prove intoxication at trial, the prosecutor will often use the officer's observations along with drug test results and expert testimony.

Controlled substances. A driver can also be convicted of an OWI if he or she has any measurable amount of a controlled substance in his or her system. This list of drugs includes marijuana, opioids, benzodioxoles, and many street drugs.

Prescription defense. There's a legal defense to an OWI charge if the driver holds a valid prescription for the controlled substance. However, the defense is not available if the driver has consumed any amount of alcohol, was using the medication improperly, or was advised not to use the medication while driving.

Iowa OWI Penalties

Drugged driving is generally a misdemeanor and the penalties are the same as those for drunk driving.

First offense. A first drugged driving offense will result in 48 hours to one year in jail, a $625 to $1,250 fine, and a 180-day license revocation.

Second offense. A second drugged driving offense will result in seven days to two years in jail, $1,875 to $6,250 in fines, and a one-year license revocation.

Third or subsequent offense. A third or subsequent OWI conviction will be a felony and carries years of prison, license revocation, and thousands of dollars in fines.

Administrative Suspension

At the time of arrest, the officer will likely request the driver submit to a chemical test to determine what the driver has in his or her system. A driver with any amount of drug metabolites will be revoked for 180 days for a first offense and one year for a second or subsequent offense. However, a driver who unlawfully refuses a chemical test will be suspended for one year for a first offense and two years for a second offense.

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