Iowa’s OWI Deferred Adjudication Program

Eligibility and completion requirements and the consequences of failing to successfully complete the deferred adjudication program

“Operating while intoxicated” (OWI) is a serious offense that carries long-term consequences. Iowa law imposes mandatory minimum penalties for OWI convictions. These penalties become more severe for subsequent convictions.

However, certain OWI offenders are eligible for the deferred adjudication program. This program gives offenders the opportunity to avoid an OWI conviction. This article discusses Iowa’s DUI deferred adjudication program, including eligibility and successful completion requirements, and the consequences of violating the terms of the program.

Who’s Eligible for the Deferred Adjudication Program?

Whether or not an offender will be granted a deferred adjudication is completely within the judge’s discretion. But an OWI offender is eligible for a deferred judgment if the current offense didn’t involve injuries to another person and the defendant:

  • hasn’t previously been convicted of an OWI offense or received a deferred judgment
  • hasn’t had a previous OWI-related license revocation
  • submitted to chemical testing and had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15% or less, and
  • didn’t refuse a chemical test under Iowa’s implied consent laws.

Generally, prior out-of-state DUI convictions and DUI deferred judgments will disqualify an offender from Iowa’s deferred adjudication program.

Deferred Adjudication Program Requirements

To enter the deferred adjudication program, the defendant must plead guilty to the OWI charge. The court doesn’t enter the conviction, but instead, places the defendant on probation, usually for one year. If the defendant completes and complies with the conditions of probation and the program, the OWI charge will be dismissed.

Successful completion of the deferred adjudication program generally requires the defendant to:

  • pay a civil fee (typically $625 to $1,250), court costs, and restitution (if any)
  • complete a substance abuse evaluation and recommended treatment
  • pay the evaluation and treatment fees
  • complete community service work, and
  • not use intoxicants during the term of the program.

The defendant must also comply with any driver’s license revocation imposed by the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the court. However, in most circumstances, the defendant can apply for a temporary restricted license. To apply for a temporary restrictive license, an ignition interlock device (IID) must be installed in all vehicles owned or operated by the defendant.

Benefits of Successfully Completing the Deferred Adjudication Program

The major benefits of successfully completing the deferred adjudication program are:

  • the OWI charge is dismissed and no conviction results, and
  • the offender avoids mandatory OWI penalties, including jail time and fines (although a civil penalty in the amount of the mandatory fine is generally imposed).

However, the arrest will still be on record and an offender’s driving record will reflect a chemical test failure. Additionally, a successfully completed deferred adjudication counts as a first offense for purposes of classifying future OWI offenses for sentencing and license revocations.

Failing to Complete or Violating the Terms of a Deferred Adjudication

If the defendant fails to successfully complete or violates the conditions of the program, the court can revoke probation and enter the conviction. Before revoking probation, the court will give the defendant an opportunity to be heard regarding why the court should not terminate probation. If probation is revoked, the defendant will likely face the mandatory penalties for a first OWI conviction.

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