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Chemical Testing in Iowa

Upon arrest for an OWI, the police may request a sample of the suspect’s blood, breath, and/or urine for the purpose of detecting the presence of alcohol and/or controlled substances. Which of the three chemical tests that will be administered are in the discretion of the police. A person may not refuse a breath or urine test without penalty.  refusal to submit to a chemical test of blood is not deemed a refusal to submit and no penalty will be imposed. Following a refusal to submit to a blood test the police may then request a breath or urine test.  

However, if the police have reasonable grounds to believe that the person was under the influence of a controlled substance, a drug other than alcohol, or a combination of alcohol and another drug, a blood or urine test will be required even after another type of test has been administered. An administrative license revocation may result to those who refuse to submit to a chemical test of urine or blood requested under these circumstances.

Under Iowa OWI Law the police MUST offer a chemical test of blood, breath, or urine within two hours following a preliminary breath test or arrest, whichever occurs first. If the police fail to offer a test within those two hours, a test will not be required and no administrative license penalties may result.

Persons who refuse chemical testing may still be compelled to submit to a test if the police obtain a warrant. However, a warrant is typically issued only when there has been a traffic accident that resulted in a death or personal injury reasonably likely to cause death and there are reasonable grounds to believe that one or more of the persons whose driving may have been the proximate cause of the accident was OWI at the time of the accident.

If the driver fails the preliminary breath test, the driver has a right to have an independent chemical test conducted at his own expense. The officer must take the driver to a hospital or clinic of the driver’s reasonable choosing to conduct a blood or urine test. The officer does not have to inform the driver of this right. The driver must specifically request the test. The chemical tests are usually produced after the officer writes his report, and can contradict the report.


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