OWI / DUI / DRUNK DRIVING

It can have different names, Driving under the influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), or in Iowa, Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), but the basic charge is the same.

Iowa Code section 321J.2 prohibits an individual from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of drugs or alcohol; or while having an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

There are two basic things that the State must prove to convict someone of Operating

While Intoxicated:

  1. The defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  2. .He/she did so
        (a) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; OR
        (b) while having an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.


What this means is that there are two different ways the State can charge you with OWI. The first would be based on a chemical breath, blood or urine test that showed you had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more. The second would be if the State could show you were “under the influence”. The Iowa Supreme Court has said a driver is “under the influence” when drugs or alcohol affects the person's reasoning or mental ability, impairs a person's judgment , visibly excites a person's emotions, or causes a person to lose control of bodily actions. The option of charging on the basis of being “under the influence” is usually disfavored by prosecutors, who prefer the more clear-cut .08 or greater case.

Contact a Iowa criminal defense lawyer representing clients in Davenport, Iowa today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Potential Criminal Penalties

In Iowa, a first offense of Operating While Intoxicated is considered a Serious Misdemeanor. You face a minimum of two days in jail and a $1250 fine, plus a 32% surcharge, a substance abuse evaluation, a course for drinking drivers as well as court costs, other surcharges, and restitution. The maximum sentence you could receive if convicted is 1 year in jail and a $1,500 fine as well as the same conditions of a 32% surcharge, a substance abuse evaluation, a course for drinking drivers as well as court costs, other surcharges, and restitution. In many cases you will be put on probation and in some cases you would be eligible for a deferred judgment.

In Iowa, a second offense of Operating While Intoxicated ( one previous conviction or deferred judgment in Iowa or another state within a twelve year period) is considered an Aggravated Misdemeanor. You face a minimum of seven days in jail and a $1,850 fine, plus a 32% surcharge, a substance abuse evaluation, a course for drinking drivers as well as court costs, other surcharges, and restitution. The maximum sentence you could receive if convicted is 2 years in prison and a $5,000 fine as well as the same conditions of a 32% surcharge, a substance abuse evaluation, a course for drinking drivers as well as court costs, other surcharges, and restitution. You cannot receive a deferred judgment for a second offense OWI.

In Iowa, a third or greater offense of Operating While Intoxicated (two previous convictions or a deferred judgment and a conviction in Iowa or another state within a twelve year period) is considered a Class D Felony. You face imprisonment of at least 30 days; a fine of no less than $3,125 plus 32% surcharge, a substance abuse evaluation, a course for drinking drivers as well as court costs, other surcharges, and restitution. The maximum sentence you could receive if convicted is 5 years in prison and a $7,500 fine as well as the same conditions of a 32% surcharge, a substance abuse evaluation, a course for drinking drivers as well as court costs, other surcharges, and restitution. You cannot receive a deferred judgment for a third offense OWI. Additionally your driver’s license will be barred for six (6) years by the Court.

In the cases where a plea agreement is reached, that is only half the battle. In most cases the sentencing judge will decide what your criminal penalties are based on what he or she believes is the best combination of sanctions for your particular case. Judges are generally not bound by any plea agreement that your attorney negotiates on your behalf. We know that it is important to keep fighting for you until the judge has made up their mind, and we prepare you and your case thoroughly.
Potential Consequences To Your Driver’s License

In addition to any criminal penalties imposed by the Judge in the criminal court, you face administrative action against you by the Iowa Department of Transportation. This is a separate and distinct process from criminal prosecution and you can face these consequences even if the criminal case is dismissed. This is because the Department of Transportation takes action against you solely upon a determination of whether you have consented to chemical testing with a result of an alcohol concentration in excess of .08 or if you have refused chemical testing. Like the criminal courts the Department of Transportation will consider any test result or refusal within 12 years in determining if there has been a prior suspension for a violation of drinking-driving statutes. Prior “zero tolerance” (.02 violations) by minors are counted as prior suspensions for these purposes. The administrative penalties increase with each subsequent test result or failure. The following discussion is meant to give you an overview of the complex and often confusing area of administrative sanctions. It is by no means a complete list of all the possible consequences and you should contact if you have any questions or your situation is not discussed.

Revocations due to a test failure:

For a first offense you will receive a 180 day revocation. You will be eligible for temporary restricted license right away so long as there was not an accident with personal injury or property damage and your test was under .15. If your test result was over .15 or an accident occurred you have a 30 day “hard suspension” and must wait to receive a temporary restricted license. If your test result was over .10 or an accident occurred you must install an ignition interlock device prior to receiving a temporary restricted license. You must install the ignition interlock device on all vehicles owned and operated by the person applying for a temporary license.

For a second or subsequent offense test failure you will face a 1 year revocation and there is no opportunity to receive a temporary restricted license.
Revocations due to test refusal:

For a first offense you will receive a 1 year revocation. There is a 90 day “hard suspension” and you must wait to receive a temporary restricted license. You must also install an ignition interlock device prior to receiving a temporary restricted license.

For a second or subsequent offense you will receive a 2 year revocation. There is a one year “hard suspension” and you must wait to receive a temporary restricted license. You must also install an ignition interlock device prior to receiving a temporary restricted license.
Revocations after a convictions where you were not previously suspended:

If you were not suspended as a direct result of a test result or refusal and are later convicted in a criminal case, you will face a suspension similar to the suspension due to test refusal or failure. The length will be 180 days for a first offense and two years for a subsequent offense. The rules for a work permit will be the same as a refusal or failure.
CDL and Zero Tolerance Violations

There are special considerations if you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or if you are under 21 and receive a .02 “zero tolerance” violation. If you have a CDL or if you are under 21 and have received an .02 violation and have a question in regards to the consequences of a test result, refusal, or criminal conviction related to alcohol and driving you should call us to discuss the matter.


If you would like to schedule a free initial consultation contact an Iowa criminal defense accident attorney, representing clients in Davenport, Iowa at the Feuerhelm Law Office, P.C. Give us a call at (515) 266-5552.