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Iowa Drunk Driving Laws

The law for drunk driving is defined in Chapter 321J of the Iowa Code. Commonly known as DUI or driving under the influence, in the Iowa drunk driving law, it is known as ‘operating while intoxicated’. A person is said to be operating while intoxicated if they have been driving while having a higher concentration of alcohol or other drugs in their bodies.

Alcohol Concentration

The concentration of alcohol in a person’s body can be measured through breath, blood, or urine and if this is found to be above a certain level, they can be booked under the DUI laws. The drunk driving law in Iowa prescribes different alcohol concentration limits for drivers depending on their age and the type of vehicle being driven. For drivers of non-commercial vehicles, the limit is set at .08 or above; while for commercial vehicle drivers the limit is set at .04 or above.

For anyone below 21 years of age, Iowa drunk driving laws set a much lower limit of .02 to discourage them from committing DUI offenses.

Charges for Drunk Driving in Iowa

The drunk driving laws in Iowa classify their DUI offenses based on the number of times the offender has been caught.

  • First Offense: A first time offender is charged with a serious misdemeanor.
  • Second Offense: If caught for the second time, the person gets an aggravated misdemeanor charge.
  • Third & Subsequent Offense: For the third and all subsequent offenses, the driver is charged with a Class D felony.


Iowa  Drunk Driving Laws

Penalties for Drunk Driving in Iowa

Just like the charges, the punishment for drunk driving in Iowa depends upon the number of consecutive offenses.

  • First Offense: A first time offender will be imprisoned for at least 2 days (48 hours), with a maximum imprisonment of 1 year. The driver’s license can also be revoked for a period between 180 days to a year. In addition, the court may impose a fine of $1,250, of which $625 can be waived off if the driver has not caused any property damage or personal injury.
  • Second Offense: A second-time offender can be punished with imprisonment of 7 days up to a maximum of 2 years. Here a license revocation of up to 1 year may apply, which can extend to 2 years if the license is being revoked for test refusal. The minimum fine for a second drunk driving offense is $1,875 which can go up to a maximum of $6,250.
  • Third & Subsequent Offense: Since the third offense and beyond are charged as felonies, the punishments are also more severe. Here the driver’s license may be revoked for 6 years and they get minimum imprisonment of 30 days up to a maximum of 5 years. A fine may also be imposed, which can be anything between $3,225 and $9,375.

Additional Penalties for Commercial Drivers

A person driving a commercial vehicle, in addition to the above penalties, will also be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for up to a year.


Drunk Driving Law
Implied Consent to Test

Iowa drunk driving laws also state that anyone driving a motor vehicle within the state of Iowa has already given their consent to be tested for alcohol concentration through blood, urine, and breath samples. The police officer has to have reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is driving while drunk to get these specimens. This is also applicable if the driver was involved in a collision or accident, or if the police officer believes the driver may be under the influence of a controlled substance other than alcohol.

License Revocation for Refusing Test

If a person refuses to submit to testing for drunk driving, their license can be revoked for up to one year for the first offense and for up to two years for subsequent offenses.

Ignition Interlock Device

Non-commercial drivers whose license has been revoked for DUI can apply for a temporary restricted license for work or medical reasons. If granted, they need to install ignition interlock devices in all vehicles owned by them.

The severity of drunk driving penalties increases depending on the number of offenses, so it is important to avoid driving under the influence altogether to prevent getting a criminal record.

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