Iowa OWI Laws & Penalties

Iowa OWI law code chapter 321J states that it is unlawful for any person to operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration level of .08% or greater.

Any person stopped for driving under the influence of a controlled substance will be arrested for OWI with any amount of the substance present in the person's system.  A list of drugs considered to be a controlled substance may be found in the Iowa code sections124.204 and 124.206.

Even if you BAC was less than .08% you may still be arrested for OWI in Iowa by means of Iowa's implied consent law, which states that if the arresting officer is able to establish probable cause that your ability to operate a motor vehicle is being impaired by the use of a controlled substance, or drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.



When someone is arrested for OWI in Iowa they are not only going to be facing the criminal charge of OWI, but they will also be faced with sanctions against their driver's license by the Iowa Department of Transportation.  You only have ten days following the date of your arrest in which to request an administrative hearing with the Iowa Department of Transportation if you wish to contest the revocation of you driver's license.

If you hope to have a successful outcome in your IDOT administrative hearing case and retain your driving privileges you will need to hire an Iowa OWI lawyer who has experience when it comes to representing clients at IDOT hearings.

Iowa Administrative Hearing Process

You must request an administrative hearing within 10 days of your arrest,otherwise your right to an administrative hearing will be lost and the revocation of your driver's license will be upheld for the applicable time frame.

An administrative hearing will be conducted by an administrative law judge.  The judge will begin by reviewing the evidence presented against you by the arresting officer and hearing testimony from the arresting officer about the arrest.

After hearing testimony from the arresting officer, the judge will review the evidence provided in your defense by your lawyer and yourself.  The judge will then hear testimony from you, your lawyer and any witnesses that have been subpoenaed in your case.

After the judge has heard all the testimonies and reviewed all of the evidence in your case, he or she will make their decision as to whether or not the revocation of your driving privileges should be upheld or if the evidence presented against you by the arresting officer does not justify the revocation of your license.

If the judge rules in your favor, your license will be reinstated.  If the judge upholds the revocation of your license, you may be able to request a temporary restricted license or work permit.  Who is eligible and who is not eligible for a temporary license is covered below in the first, second and third offense OWI sections.

If you are granted a temporary restricted license you will be required to provide the IDOT with proof of financial responsibility in the form of an Iowa SR22 insurance policy and pay a $200 civil penalty before they will issue you a restricted permit.

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Iowa First Offense OWI

A first offense conviction is a serious misdemeanor charge and means that you have not been convicted of a previous OWI charge within the past 12-years.  The penalties for a first offense OWI charge are as follows:

  • Jail time: The minimum jail sentence for a first offense conviction is 48 consecutive hours and the maximum jail sentence is up to 1-year in jail. The court may suspend a first offense jail sentence as long as you submitted to a chemical test, have no prior OWI convictions within the past 12-years, your BAC level was below .15%, have never had a previous deferred sentence and there were no bodily injuries to another person as a result of your driving under the influence.
  • Fines: The maximum fines for a first offense conviction are $1,250, but $625 of the fine amount may be waived by the court if you present a temporary restricted license.  At the court's discretion they may order you to perform community service in lieu of the fine.
  • Restitution: If an accident resulted from your OWI stop or you caused property damage, you must pay restitution to the victim.  The amount of the restitution will be determined by the court.
  • Substance abuse treatment: You will have to undergo a substance abuse evaluation if the court requires one.  You must successfully complete the substance abuse program, attend a course for drinking drivers, and if ordered, attend a reality education substance abuse prevention program.
  • Test refusal: A test refusal will result in a 1 year license suspension.
  • Ignition interlock: An ignition interlock will be required for BAC above .10% or if an accident occured resulting in the injury of another person in order to receive a restricted license.
  • License suspension: If IDOT has not revoked your license prior to conviction, the court must order IDOT to revoke a first time offender's license for 180-days.  If you receive a deferred judgment from the court, IDOT has the discretion to revoke your license for a minimum of 30 days or a maximum of 90 days.

    Before the Iowa Department of Transportation will reinstate your license or issue you a restricted license, you will be required to file an SR22 form with IDOT showing proof of financial responsibility in the form of a Iowa SR22 insurance filing policy, have an approved ignition interlock device installed (if required) and pay a $200 civil penalty.

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Iowa Second Offense OWI

A second offense conviction is an aggravated misdemeanor charge and means that you have been convicted of a previous OWI charge within the past 12-years.  The penalties for a second offense OWI charge are as follows:

  • Jail time: The mandatory minimum jail sentence for a second offense conviction is 7 days in county jail and the maximum jail sentence is up to 2-years in county jail. The mandatory minimum jail sentence cannot be suspended by the court.  The jail sentence must be served on consecutive days.

    If the court determines that the imposed jail sentence term will cause undo hardship on you or that there is not sufficient space in the county jail, the court may order you to serve the minimum sentence in a minimum of 48 hour segments and you will have to perform community service for a period of time to be determined by the court.

  • Fines: The minimum fines for a second offense are $1,875 and the maximum fines are $6,250 for a second offense conviction.  At the court's discretion, community service may be ordered in lieu of the fine amount.
  • Restitution: If an accident resulted from your OWI stop or you caused property damage, you must pay restitution to the victim.  The amount of the restitution will be determined by the court.
  • Substance abuse treatment: You will have to undergo a substance abuse evaluation. You must successfully complete the substance abuse program, attend a course for drinking drivers, and if ordered attend a reality education substance abuse prevention program.
  • Test refusal: A test refusal will result in a 2 year license suspension.
  • Ignition interlock: An ignition interlock will be required in order to receive a restricted license.
  • Vehicle Impoundment: The court may also order the vehicle used in the offense, if the vehicle is owned by the offender to be impounded or immobilized for a period of time to be determined by the court.
  • License suspension: Your license will be revoked for 2-years following a second offense conviction.  You will be eligible for a temporary restricted license 45 days after the suspension period has started.

    Before the Iowa Department of Transportation will reinstate your license or issue you a restricted license, you will be required to file an SR22 form with IDOT showing proof of financial responsibility in the form of a Iowa SR-22 insurance policy, have an approved ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle you will be driving and pay a $200 civil penalty.

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Iowa Third or subsequent Offense OWI

A third or subsequent offense conviction is a Class D felony charge and means that you have been convicted of two previous OWI charges within the past 12-years.  The penalties for a third or subsequent offense OWI charge are as follows:

  • Jail time: The mandatory minimum jail sentence for a third or subsequent offense conviction is 30 days in prison and the maximum jail sentence is up to 5-years in prison. The mandatory minimum jail sentence cannot be suspended by the court.
  • Fines: The minimum fines for a third or subsequent offense are $3,125 and the maximum fines are $9,375 for a third or subsequent offense conviction.
  • Restitution: If an accident resulted from your OWI stop or you caused property damage, you must pay restitution to the victim.  The amount of the restitution will be determined by the court.
  • Substance abuse treatment: You will have to undergo a substance abuse evaluation.  You must successfully complete the substance abuse program, attend a course for drinking drivers, and if ordered attend a reality education substance abuse prevention program.
  • Test refusal: A test refusal will result in a 2 year license suspension.
  • Ignition interlock: An ignition interlock will be required in order to receive a restricted license.
  • Vehicle Impoundment: The court may also order the vehicle used in the offense, if the vehicle is owned by the offender to be impounded or immobilized for a period of time to be determined by the court.
  • License suspension: Your license will be revoked for 6-years following a third or subsequent offense conviction.  You will not be eligible for a temporary restricted license after 1-year following the term of imprisonment.

    Before the Iowa Department of Transportation will reinstate your license or issue you a restricted license, you will be required to file an SR22 form with IDOT showing proof of financial responsibility in the form of a Iowa SR-22 policy, have an approved ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle you will be driving and pay a $200 civil penalty.

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Penalties for Refusing an Iowa Chemical Test

If the arresting officer has established probable cause and has requested that you submit to a preliminary chemical test and you refuse, the officer must inform you of the penalties for refusal and then ask you again to submit to a chemical test.

If this is a first offense OWI violation and you refuse to submit to the chemical test, your license will be revoked for 1-year.  A first time offender who refuses to submit to a chemical test will not be eligible for a temporary restricted license for the first 90 days following the revocation date.

If this is a second offense OWI violation and you refuse to submit to the chemical test, your license will be revoked for a minimum of 1-year and you will not be eligible for temporary license during that time.

Before IDOT will issue you a restricted license following the mandatory 90 day revocation period for a first offense or the minimum 1-year revocation period for a second offense you will have to have an ignition interlock device installed by an approved interlock service center on any vehicles that you drive, present proof of completion of a course for drinking drivers, present proof of completion of an approved substance abuse evaluation program, pay a $200 civil penalty and provide proof of financial responsibility in the form of Iowa SR22 insurance to IDOT before they will reinstate your license.

Iowa First Offense OWI Under 21 Years of Age

Anyone under the age of 21 who is stopped and suspected of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol concentration of .02% or greater is in violation of Iowa's 'zero tolerance' law.  A first time offender who submits to a chemical test will have their driver's license revoked for 60 days.  A first time offender who refuses to submit to a chemical test will have their license revoked for 1-year.

A second or subsequent offense while under the age of 21 will result in a license revocation of 90 days as long as you submitted to a chemical test.  Failure to submit to a chemical test for a second or subsequent offense will result in a 2-year license revocation period.

In addition to the license revocation for an offense under the age of 21, you will also have to participate in a youthful offender substance abuse program.  Violators under the age of 21 are not eligible for a temporary restricted license.

Before IDOT will reinstate your license you will have to pay a $200 civil penalty along with showing proof of financial responsibility in the form of an Iowa SR22 policy.

Iowa SR22 Requirements

Before the Iowa Department of Transportation will reinstate your license following your revocation period or before issuing you a restricted license, they will require you to file an SR22 form with them before issuing you a new license or restricted license. You will be required to carry your SR22 insurance for a period of 3-years.

At anytime during this 3-year period if there is a lapse in your Iowa SR22 insurancecoverage, your insurance provider is obligated by law to immediately inform the Iowa Department of Transportation of the lapse.  If a lapse in coverage occurs, the Iowa Department of Transportation will immediately suspend your license and you will be required to re-file an SR22 form with IDOT before they will issue you another license.

Since you are going to have to have your SR22 insurance for a period of 3-years, it is important to find the cheapest policy you can before choosing one.  DUI Process has partnered with the largest and most trusted SR22 insurance provider in the state of Iowa and has worked out a special discount only available here for our website visitors.

You won't be able to find a SR22 insurance policy in Iowa for any less. Type in your zip code below so we can provide you with the cheapest rates in your area.

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Other Iowa OWI Resources

  • Iowa First Offense OWI - First offense information including penalties, fines, potential jail time, license suspension, OWI classes, and much more.

  • Iowa SR22 Insurance Filings - We have compiled everything you need to know about Iowa's SR22 insurance and filing requirements including important addresses, phone numbers, etc.

  • Iowa OWI Programs - We offer a complete listing of state approved OWI programs listed by County.

  • Iowa Bail Bondsmen - Comprehensive list of Iowa bail bond agents including address, phone, website, etc.