First OWI Offense in Iowa

The administrative and criminal penalties for a first OWI in Iowa.

By , Attorney

In Iowa, driving under the influence (DUI) is normally referred to as "operating while intoxicated" (OWI). A person can be convicted of OWI for driving a motor vehicle:

When an offender is arrested for OWI, administrative (license-related) penalties are normally imposed. If the offender is convicted of OWI in court, there are criminal penalties in addition to the administrative penalties already imposed.

Administrative Penalties

License revocation. Generally, the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will revoke the license of any driver who is arrested for OWI and fails or refuses to take a chemical test. A person fails a chemical test if the results indicate the presence of a controlled substance or other drug, a BAC of .08% or more, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.

For a failed test, a first-time offender's driving privileges will be revoked for 180 days. If a motorist refuses to take a chemical test in violation of Iowa's implied consent law, the DMV will revoke the person's driving privileges for one year.

These revocations take effect ten days after the DMV mails notice to the offender.

Temporary restricted licenses and ignition interlock devices. A person whose license has been revoked may apply for a temporary restricted license. Before a temporary restricted license will be issued, the person must pay a $200 civil penalty to the DMV and install an ignition interlock device (IID) in all vehicles owned or operated by the applicant. The IID must be installed for the period of time the temporary restricted license is issued.

License reinstatement. Generally, after a revocation for failure or refusal of a chemical test, the DMV will not reinstate a driver's license until the offender:

  • pays the $200 civil penalty, and
  • provides proof of completion of a drinking drivers course, substance abuse evaluation, and treatment or rehabilitation services.

Criminal Penalties

Jail. A first OWI offense is a serious misdemeanor. A conviction carries a minimum of 48 hours in jail. A judge can impose more jail time, but the total must not exceed one year.

Fines and community service. On a first OWI conviction, the offender is required to pay a $1,250 fine, plus surcharges and fees. However, the judge can waive up to $625 of the fine if:

  • the OWI offense didn't involve personal injury or property damage, and
  • the defendant presents a temporary restricted license to the court.

In lieu of part or the entire fine, the judge can order the defendant to complete unpaid community service. But community service can't be performed as an alternative to a civil penalty or restitution.

License suspension. Generally, license revocations are imposed by the DMV when an OWI offender is in violation of the implied consent law. However, if the defendant's license wasn't administratively revoked as discussed above, the court will order the DMV to revoke the defendant's license upon a conviction for OWI. The revocation is for 180 days if the defendant submitted to chemical testing and has no previous OWI convictions or revocations. The revocation is for one year if the defendant refused to take a chemical test and has no previous OWI convictions or revocations.

If the defendant seeks a temporary restricted license, an IID must be installed in all vehicles owned or operated by the defendant.

Substance abuse evaluation and treatment. All OWI offenders must complete a substance abuse evaluation and the recommended treatment program. The court can set the length of time that treatment is required or leave it up to the treatment provider. The law also requires OWI offenders to complete a course for drinking drivers, and in some cases, a reality education substance abuse prevention program.

Probation. After completing the required treatment program, the offender is generally placed on probation for six months. As a condition of probation, the offender is required to complete a substance abuse prevention program or engage in posttreatment services. Failure to complete such a program will result in the defendant being placed on probation for one year, confined in jail for a minimum of 20 days, and/or community service work.

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