Iowa DUI Laws

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Iowa DUI laws state that anyone who is driving with a blood/breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above can be charged with an OWI, or “operating while intoxicated.” Anyone under 21 can be charged if their BAC is higher than 0.02%.
Each year, over 10,000 people in the US are killed on the road as a result of drunk driving crashes.
Driving while under the influence—of alcohol or drugs—is a dangerous crime. Penalties vary by state, but even a first-time offense can cost the driver up to $10,000 in legal fees and fines. A DUI in Iowa will most certainly impact your car insurance rates, too.
Here’s everything you need to know about the DUI laws in Iowa, compiled by Jerry, the car insurance comparison and broker app.
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What is a DUI?

DUI is an acronym that stands for driving under the influence whereas DWI means driving while intoxicated or impaired. In Iowa, they use the term OWI instead, which means operating while intoxicated.
An Iowa driver can be charged with an OWI for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and this includes legal drugs like prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. If you become impaired as a result of taking a substance and then get behind the wheel, you can be charged with an OWI.
Some states use different terms to mean the same thing, like OUI (operating under the influence).

OWI in Iowa

In Iowa, it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of:
  • 0.08% or higher if you’re 21 or older
  • 0.04% or higher if you hold a commercial driver’s license
  • 0.02% or higher if you’re under the age of 21
These requirements apply while operating any motor vehicle. Anyone convicted of an OWI is required to participate in a substance abuse evaluation.
Key Takeaway There is zero tolerance for minors driving under the influence. People under the age of 21 may not carry alcohol inside a vehicle unless a parent is present and the container is unopened, full, and sealed.
Each state has an implied consent law which says that you consent to be tested if an officer suspects you of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you are lawfully arrested for an OWI, you are required to submit to a urine, blood, or breath test. Iowa drivers who refuse a chemical test can be penalized with revocation of their license (one year for a first offense).
You do not have the right to consult with legal counsel before taking the test.

Penalties for an OWI in Iowa

Penalties for OWIs are incredibly strict and the conviction will remain on your driving record for 12 years.

First conviction

In Iowa, an OWI first offense for a driver 21 and older could result in the following penalties.
PenaltyDescription
Fine$625 to $1,200
Jail48 hours to one year
License suspension180 days minimum
Vehicle impoundmentNo
SR-22 requirementYes
Ignition interlock deviceYes, if BAC was over 0.1%
For an underage OWI, here are the penalties for a first conviction.
PenaltyDescription
Fine$625 to $1,250
Jail48 hours to one year
License suspension60 days
Vehicle impoundmentNo
SR-22 requirementYes
Ignition interlock deviceYes, if BAC was higher than 0.1%
Iowa DUI laws require offenders to complete a program on substance abuse and driving, and the driver is responsible for all fees. After the course, the driver is usually put on probation.

Subsequent convictions

If you are convicted of an OWI again, you will be subject to increased penalties.
PenaltyDescription
FineUp to $9,375
JailUp to five years
License suspensionMinimum one year
Vehicle impoundmentYes
SR-22 requirementYes
Ignition interlock deviceYes
After a second or subsequent OWI conviction in Iowa, the court may commit the driver to an inpatient treatment program. The doctor or the judge will set the length, and time spent in treatment counts as jail time credit.
The state can also require you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle, which will prevent you from starting the car if there is any alcohol on your breath.
It may be possible for you to obtain a restricted license after a first offense that permits you to drive when necessary (i.e., to work) if you agree to:
  • Complete the prescribed program
  • Install an IID
  • Agree to only drive vehicles with an IID
  • Pay the reissue and restriction fees to the state
Key Takeaway Minimum penalties are usually increased if you had a very high blood alcohol concentration or if you were involved in an accident where someone was injured—even for a first conviction.
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Does an OWI impact car insurance in Iowa?

Yes, insurance companies pay close attention to DUI and OWI convictions. You will be classified as a high-risk driver.
You may find it challenging to find insurance in Iowa with an OWI on record, so the best strategy is to shop around. The Jerry app can compare rates from up to 50 top insurance companies—in just 60 seconds—so you don’t have to deal with sales calls or fill out lengthy online forms.
With a conviction on your record in Iowa, expect substantially higher rates than your previous payment.
For very serious convictions—like vehicular homicide—you may need to find an insurance company that can file an SR-22 on your behalf. This confirms that you have the state-mandated minimum insurance, and it’s required before you are allowed to drive.

Other effects of an OWI

On top of the penalties and higher insurance rates, you could face additional consequences due to an OWI conviction.
License revocation: After a DUI or OWI charge, you may have your license revoked if you were charged with other serious offenses—like endangerment.
Ignition interlock device: Every state has a version of the ignition interlock program which requires drivers with a DUI conviction to install this device in their vehicle. It can disable your engine if any alcohol is detected on your breath.
Background checks: Employers who pull a background check will see your OWI conviction. This could jeopardize your job prospects, especially since it will stay on your record for 12 years.

How to find cheap insurance after an OWI

Jerry is the easiest and most effective way for someone with an OWI conviction in Iowa to find a customized car insurance policy.
If you want to save money on car insurance, the Jerry app is a good place to start. A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding the cheapest quotes from the top name-brand insurance companies and buying new car insurance. Jerry will even help you cancel your old policy.
“I have a really bad record, so all of my previous insurance quotes were pretty high. I started using Jerry and the fantastic app saved me $130 a month on my insurance.” —Jett A.
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