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Defenses to DUI (OWI) in Iowa

There are many ways to defend against OWI in Iowa. It is best to consult an attorney to determine your best defense. A driver may challenge an OWI by arguing there was an inaccurate breath or chemical test, whether a false positive or incorrectly high result.

A driver may also argue that the peace officer made an illegal traffic stop, since the peace officer must have a probable cause for a traffic stop. Another defense is arguing the inaccuracy of a field sobriety test. The standing leg test is measured to be only 65% accurate in individuals, while the walk and turn is only 68% accurate and the HGN is 77% accurate.

Another defense that may be available is the police’s failure to follow the proper procedures for a blood test, which may lead to the suppression of the evidence and dismissal of the charge.

Other defenses include, but are not limited to: invalidly licensed breath test operator or improper operation of machine; breath test malfunctions; radio frequency interference that influence breath or blood tests; other chemicals mistaken for alcohol; low carb diet causing false-high OWI reading; unapproved breath test; failure to give Miranda warnings; failure to honor Iowa’s 15 minute observation period before conducting a breath test, making results invalid and inadmissible; illegal search; breath temperature producing invalid BAC reading; necessity if driving was the lesser of two evils; misleading police statements; and an argument that the peace officer did not have probable cause for arrest or that the arrest was invalid.

Other Defenses

  1. Unlawful stop and arrest—you cannot be stopped by an officer unless he has a reasonable suspicion to believe you are OWI. So if you were stopped because of an anonymous person reported you were drunk, because you were weaving inside a lane, or if you were driving on a private roadway, then the stop was unlawful. In these situations, an arrest would be unlawful unless an you actually violated the law.
  2. Improper pre-arrest screening—if the officer used a pre-screening method not approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Iowa, then the evidence from the pre-arrest screening will be excluded. For example, counting backwards is not an acceptable test. Standard field sobriety tests such as standing on one leg or the walk-and-turn test are not 100% accurate in determining you are intoxicated. Also, one result from a portable breathalyzer test is not admissible.
  3. Malfunctioning or inaccurate breathalyzer or chemical tests—the results from your breath, blood, or urine sample could be inaccurate if the equipment used was broken, not calibrated correctly, or not used correctly to administer the test. There is also an average margin of error of around 12.5% for breathalyzers. Perfectly legal products like an asthma inhaler contain alcohol and could give you a false reading. There is also the likeliness that outside factors could skew the results of a urine or blood screening.
  4. Improper police procedures—there is always room for an officer to make a mistake when conducting the pre-arrest screening and any post-arrest screenings. If you can show the officer had poor or a lack of required documentation or did not follow a required procedure correctly, then this can be a successful defense.
  5. Failure to prove OWI—if the State cannot prove you were operating a vehicle while intoxicated, then judgment will be in your favor. So this means that if you consumed alcohol just before you went driving but were tested 20 minutes after being stopped, then your alcohol concentration will be higher than at the time you were driving. This does not prove intoxication while driving; it proves intoxication after the fact.

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