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Frequently Asked Questions about DUI (OWI) in Iowa

When you can be arrested for OWI in Iowa?

A peace officer can lawfully place a person under arrest for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, with a BAC higher than the legal limit.  A person can be arrested for an OWI at the discretion of a peace officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person is in violation of the legal limit.

When a peace officer has reasonable belief that a driver has committed the offense of OWI, or the driver has been involved in a motor vehicle collision resulting in injury or death, the peace officer may request the driver provide a breath sample for a preliminary screening test.  The results of this test may be used for the purpose of deciding whether an arrest should be made or whether to request a chemical test for further determination.

Any person who operates a motor vehicle in Iowa under circumstances that gives reasonable ground to believe a person has been operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, in violation of OWI, is deemed to have given consent to a blood, breath, or urine test for the purposes of determining the alcohol concentration or presence of a controlled substance or other drugs.  The tests shall be administered at the written consent of a peace officer with reasonable grounds to believe that the person was operating a motor vehicle in violation OWI.  A person has a right to refuse a chemical test or test of the specimens, but may be subject to the revocation of their license.

Can I be stopped and arrested for OWI even if the vehicle was not moving?

Yes, you can be stopped and arrested for an OWI even if the vehicle was not moving if an officer has a reasonable basis for stopping your car.  For example, if you are slumped over the wheel, or pulled off to the side of the road and the peace officer has reasonable standing to suspect that you might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he may ask you to perform a preliminary breath test to determine whether you may be arrested for an OWI under Iowa law.

Do I have the right to talk to an attorney before I give a sample?

You have both a constitutional and statutory right to consult with an attorney prior to taking the direct breath test at the station. Iowa law provides that once you arrive at the place of detention, you must be provided the opportunity to contact an attorney and/or family member if you so request. However, you must exercise this right by requesting to make a phone call to an attorney or family member. The officer does not have to tell you about this right. You also have the right to consult with an attorney or family member in private and in person so long as it does not interfere with the officer’s 2 hour time period in which to offer the test.

Do I have to give a blood or urine sample?

No, you have the right to refuse any test, but there can be consequences to your refusal. Iowa operates under an Implied Consent Law, which means as a driver in Iowa, you agree to submit to a chemical test if the peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe you are under the influence.  If you refuse, your license may be suspended for refusing these tests if the officer can still prove you were operating the motor vehicle and under the influence of drugs or alcohol or a combination of both.

If the driver is operating a commercial vehicle and either refuses the test or the test results are .04 or greater, he is disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle for one year.

Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test?

No, you do not have to submit to a field sobriety test. Whether or not you “pass” or “fail” these tests is dependent upon the subjective determination of the officer. Chances of an officer (that already suspects you of driving drunk) saying that you passed these tests are incredibly slim.


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