Third OWI Offense in Iowa

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

In Iowa, driving under the influence (DUI) is generally referred to as “operating while intoxicated” (OWI). Under Iowa’s OWI laws, a person can be convicted of OWI for driving a motor vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more
  • while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, or
  • while any amount of a controlled substance is present in the person’s blood or urine.

When an offender is arrested for OWI, administrative (license related) penalties are normally imposed. In addition to administrative penalties, criminal penalties are imposed if the defendant is convicted of OWI in court.

Administrative Penalties

License revocation. The Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) generally revokes 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 (get an estimate of the number of drinks it takes to hit the limit), or a combination of alcohol and drugs.

The DMV will revoke the offender’s license for one year if the driver:

  • fails a chemical test, and
  • has had a previous OWI-related license revocation.

The revocation is for two years if the driver:

Administrative license 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 A person whose license has been revoked can apply for a temporary restricted license.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.

License reinstatement. After a third 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
  • provides proof of completion of a drinking drivers course, substance abuse evaluation, and treatment or rehabilitation services, and
  • provides proof of installation of an IID in the offender’s vehicle.

After a third revocation, the IID must be installed for a period of one year from the date of reinstatement. However, the one-year period will be reduced by any period of time that the offender held a temporary restricted license.

Criminal Penalties

Jail. A person who’s convicted of a third OWI is guilty of a class D felony. The maximum sentence is five years in the Department of Corrections (DOC)—Iowa’s prison system—and there’s a mandatory minimum of 30 days. OWI offenders sentenced to the custody of the DOC are placed in either a community residential or an institutional substance abuse treatment program.

If the court “suspends” a defendant’s DOC sentence, the defendant must serve at least 30 days, but not more than one year in the county jail. The defendant may also be committed to treatment in the community.

Fines and fees. A third OWI conviction carries $3,125 to $9,375 in fines, plus surcharges and fees.

License suspension. In addition to the administrative license revocation discussed above, on a third OWI conviction, the judge will revoke the defendant’s license for six years. If the defendant seeks a temporary restricted license, an IID must be installed in all vehicles owned or operated by the defendant.

Vehicle impoundment. When a person is convicted of OWI for a third time, the court can order the vehicle used in the commission of the offense and owned by the defendant to be impounded or immobilized for 180 days.

Substance abuse evaluation and treatment. In addition to treatment required by the DOC while serving the jail sentence, all OWI offenders must complete a substance abuse evaluation and the recommended treatment program. For a third OWI conviction, the court can commit the defendant to an inpatient treatment program. The defendant will receive jail time credit for any time spent in inpatient treatment. The court can set the length of time that treatment is required or leave it up to the inpatient treatment facility.

Iowa’s OWI laws also require 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 OWI 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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