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Prescription Drugs and OWI in Iowa

A driver in Iowa may be charged and convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a drug in addition to alcohol, including prescription drugs. The legal limit for drugs is “any amount,” and an affirmative defense to the presence of drugs in a driver exists if the driver was taking the controlled substance pursuant to a prescription and in accordance with the direction of the issuing doctor or pharmacist.

If the person is charged with being under the influence of a drug, the prescription is only a defense if the individual was not instructed to refrain from operating a motor vehicle and there was no evidence that alcohol had been consumed.

If the driver has consumed alcohol, then the charge turns into a combination of drug and alcohol offense, which is treated the same as an ordinary OWI charge. The prosecution can use an alcohol test result, even below the legal limit, in an attempt to defeat a prescription defense to a driving while drugged case.

If the jury determines that the driver was legally under the influence of a combination of drug and alcohol, the driver can be convicted regardless of whether or not they had a valid prescription.


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