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Things to Know about OWIs/DUIs in the State of Iowa

Posted by John R. Flynn | Mar 19, 2019 | 0 Comments

What is an OWI?

Operating while intoxicated (OWI) is often referred to as driving under the influence (DUI). In Iowa, this is defined as operating a motor vehicle in any of the following conditions:

  1. While under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two;
  2. While having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more;
  3. While any amount of a controlled substance is present in the person.

This means that you can be charged with an OWI if you have a blood-alcohol concentration of higher than .08 as measured by a breath test, urine sample, or blood test. This also means you can be charged with an OWI if you have other drugs in your system as well because certain drugs can impair your ability to drive. Take note that a person can be “under the influence” with a blood-alcohol concentration of less than .08 and still be charged with an OWI.

What are the penalties of getting an OWI?

First Offense:

  • Charged with a serious misdemeanor
  • Jail time of two days up to one year
  • Fine of $625 up to $1250
  • Revocation of driver's license for 180 days if Data Master Test is failed, but one year if Data Master test is refused at the jail
  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
  • Course for drinking drivers
  • Temporary license available through Department of Transportation (DOT)

Second Offense:

  • Charged with an aggravated misdemeanor
  • Jail time of seven days up to two years
  • Fine of $1875 up to $6250
  • Revocation of driver's license for one year, but revoked for two years if Data Master Test is refused at the jail
  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
  • Course for drinking drivers
  • Temporary license available through DOT

Third Offense:

  • Charged with a class “D” felony
  • Jail time of 30 days to five years
  • Fine of $3125 up to $9375
  • Revocation of driver's license for six years
  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
  • Course for drinking drivers

What should I do if I get pulled over for an OWI?

DO:  The first thing you should is slow down, signal, and find a safe spot to stop. Put your car in park and turn off the ignition. When the officer approaches, roll down both the driver and passenger side windows as the officer may approach from either side. Be polite, keep both hands on the steering wheel, and provide the officer with your license, registration, and proof of insurance when asked.

DO NOT:  Do not engage in conversation with the officer. They will ask you questions about how much you have had to drink, where you have been, where you are going, etc. You do not have to answer these questions and doing so may provide the officer with incriminating information. Anything you say to the officer can be used against you in court. Do not lie or argue. Simply say, “I do not wish to answer any questions.”

FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS:  Field sobriety tests are voluntary, you DO NOT have to do them. Additionally, a preliminary breath test is voluntary. You DO NOT have to do it. If you choose to refuse the tests, be polite but firm and tell the officer you do not wish to do the tests.

DATA MASTER TEST AT THE JAIL: The Data Master Test is the test that counts relative to your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) being admitted into evidence at trial.  DO NOT take the Data Master Test.  It will provide incriminating evidence that the prosecutor will use against you in court.  Keep in mind however, that you will have your driver's license revoked for a longer period of time by the DOT when you refuse the Data Master Test.   

What should I do if I get arrested for an OWI?

DO NOT:  Do not argue or resist the arrest. Stay silent and comply. On the way to the police station do not speak to the officer. Alcohol is very easy to smell on a person's breath and talking in an enclosed police car will make it that much more noticeable. You have the right to remain silent and that right continues from the moment you are encountered and continues after arrest. This means even when you are at the police station after being arrested, you do not have to answer questions.

DO: Demand to speak to an attorney. Under Iowa law, you MUST be allowed to call an attorney or family member upon request. The officer is NOT required to advise you of this right upon arrest; it is your responsibility to assert this right. Tell the officer, “I would like to speak to an attorney.”

When you arrive at the police station you should not take the breath test at this time, which is the Data Master Test.  However, you will have the longer license suspension issued by the DOT.  Once again, you should request to speak to an attorney.  Upon speaking with an attorney, if possible, request that the attorney be allowed to come to the jail to consult and assess your situation in person.  Additionally, you do have a right to request a blood test, but that is only if you in fact give a breath sample into the Data Master Machine, which you should not do.  

Who should I call if I get arrest for an OWI?

Call the Jordan and Mahoney Law Firm, P.C. with locations in Ames, Boone, Madrid, and Webster City.

 Ames: 515-809-9700

Boone: 515-432-4510

Madrid: 515-795-3641

Webster City: 515-835-7432

About the Author

John R. Flynn

John has a broad litigation practice, focused on representing injured Iowans and family members of injured Iowans, who have been injured or harmed due to the fault of others. He has litigated cases against large corporations, as well as numerous insurance companies. John has also litigated severa...


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Jordan & Mahoney Law Firm, P.C. represents individuals and businesses throughout Central Iowa in a wide variety of legal matters. Our attorneys will explain the legal process, your rights, and provide you with customized solutions to best solve your legal issues.