BEING INVESTIGATED AND ULTIMATELY ARRESTED FOR OPERATING WHILE INTOXICATED (OWI) CAN BE VERY STRESSFUL. MANY HAVE NEVER BEEN ARRESTED BEFORE AND ARE UNCERTAIN OF WHAT THEY SHOULD DO ONCE THEY’RE ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD WITH THE OFFICER. /
Certainly, no one wants to face jail time, lose their driver’s license, pay fines, or have an incident on their record. Unfortunately, being arrested and charged with an OWI has major consequences.
In Iowa, if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol and meets certain statutory criteria, then that person is charged with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). Other states refer to them as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
Every state’s impaired driving laws are different, so make sure to contact an attorney who practices in the state where you have been charged. In Iowa, OWI statutes cover not only driving while under the influence of alcohol, but also driving under the influence of drugs.The OWI statutes in Iowa Code Section 321J.2 cover both.
If you’ve been arrested for OWI, you might be asking:
- What do I do now?
- How long will my license be suspended?
- How do I get to work if my license is suspended?
- How do I get to school if my license is suspended?
- Does the machine on site, called a Preliminary Breathalyzer Test (PBT), provide accurate results?
- Does the machine at the police station, usually called the Datamaster, provide accurate results?
- What’s the difference between the two?
- How is my case different if I took a blood test or urinalysis?
- Should I refuse to take a PBT?
These are just a few of the many questions that may be on your mind. Talking to an attorney who handles these cases as soon as you are charged with this offense is the only way to ensure that you have the best defense and the most legal options.
Typically, motorists are pulled over for various reasons, whether it be an equipment violation, traffic violation, or driving behavior that might indicate the person is impaired. There is no silver bullet for defending an OWI charge. However, there are many ways that you may win your case, including having the evidence suppressed and taking your case to trial.
Your attorneys here at Hall & Wingert, PLC, will analyze your case from the time the police officer first noticed you in the vehicle until the time you were booked at the jail. In many cases, we may identify more than one defense.
It is important to have an attorney that understands what police officers are supposed to do when they are investigating potential OWIs and can catch errors when officers make them. Getting in touch with an attorney right away is the best way to protect your rights.
We understand that being charged with an OWI is a serious matter. As Iowa OWI attorneys, we are dedicated to evaluating each case, explaining to the client its strengths and weaknesses. We start at the very beginning, determining whether law enforcement had a legitimate reason to stop you. We have helped numerous individuals get their lives back together. To get started, call our office at 712-226-4255.
HOW LAW ENFORCEMENT DETERMINES INTOXICATION
In 2016, there were 14,721 OWI revocations throughout the state. These revocations stem from arrests involving criminal charges for operating while intoxicated. Once a person has been stopped by law enforcement, there are several tests they may use to determine whether a person is over the legal limit in Iowa. The commonly used method is the Preliminary Breathalyzer Test (PBT). The individual is asked to breathe into a device that determines blood alcohol content (BAC). A person who is 21 years old is legally intoxicated in Iowa if the BAC is at or more than 0.08.
An OWI in Iowa has two components: administrative sanctions imposed by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and criminal sanctions imposed by the court per Iowa law. Under Iowa’s implied consent law, by operating a vehicle on Iowa highways you consent to a specimen of your breath, blood, or urine for determining the presence of alcohol or drugs. However, police officers must have reasonable grounds to believe the person is intoxicated to invoke implied consent.
While you do have the option of refusing to take such tests, there are administrative consequences for a refusal. Under Iowa Code, if a person refuses to submit to such testing, his or her license is automatically revoked by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) for one year for a first offense; that individual will not be eligible for a Temporary Restricted License (TRL) for 90 days.
Generally, for a first offense the revocation is 180 days and may qualify for a TRL either right away or in 30 days. Just because you refuse a chemical test, however, does not necessarily mean you cannot win at trial or that you are guilty of operating while intoxicated. If you are found not guilty at trial, then your revocation for one year through the DOT can be rescinded so that your driving privileges are reinstated.
It is a crime to operate a vehicle while intoxicated if any of the statutory criteria are met.
There are three ways to be convicted of OWI. The first is having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The second way is if the individual is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, drugs or a combination of the two in their system (meaning the State must prove intoxication in another way). The third way you can be convicted of OWI is if any amount of a controlled substance is present in your body as determined by the results of a blood or urine test.
FIRST OFFENSE OWI
The typical questions someone asks if they have been charged with an OWI first offense are:
- How much will I pay in fines?
- How much jail time will I serve?
- Do I have to serve my time in jail?
- What is electronic monitoring?
- How long will I lose my license for?
- What’s a temporary restricted license?
Fines and Jailtime
An OWI first offense in Iowa is a serious misdemeanor. If you are convicted, the maximum sentence provided by statute is imprisonment of no more than one (1) year. The fine is a fixed amount of $1,250.00 plus 35% statutory surcharge or $437.50. The minimum sentence includes imprisonment in the county jail for at least 48 hours. You may be sentenced to both the fines and jail time. In addition to jail time and fines, you will have to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and take a 12-hour drunk driver’s course, not to mention pay restitution and court costs.
More times than not, first-time offenders receive the minimum sentence and fines. There is never a guarantee that an individual will receive the minimum sentence and fines, and it depends upon the circumstances that surround the OWI. For example, if you were traveling 20 miles per hour above the speed limit, had a BAC of 0.17, and caused an accident, the jail time would likely be more than the minimum. For an OWI first offense, there is only a fixed fee of $1,250.00, but for OWI second offenses, etc., there are minimum and maximum fines.
TRL and DL Suspension
The driver’s license suspension period for a first offense if you provided a breath, urine, or blood specimen is 180 days. During that time, you may apply for a temporary restricted license (TRL). A TRL permits you, for example, to drive to work and school. If your alcohol concentration is 0.08 or more but not more than 0.10 you, will be eligible for a TRL right away and will not be required to install an ignition interlock device.
If you caused an accident resulting in personal injury or property damage, you will not be eligible for a TRL for 30 days and will be required to install an ignition interlock device. This is a device attached to your vehicle that you must blow in before driving. The 30-day suspension is known as the “hard suspension.”
If your alcohol concentration is 0.10 or higher, but does not exceed 0.15 and you did not cause an accident resulting in personal injury or property damage, then you will be eligible for a TRL right away. You will, however, be required to install an ignition interlock device if your BAC is more than 0.10. If your BAC exceeds 0.15, you will have to wait 30 days before being eligible for a TRL regardless of whether you caused an accident. You are not required to install an ignition interlock device if you do not plan to apply for a TRL.
Alternatives to jail time
Talk to your OWI attorney at Hall & Wingert, PLC. Each county is different. In addition, work-release programs are available so that those who choose to serve their time in the jail can continue to work.
Regardless of your situation and circumstances, the attorneys here at Hall & Wingert are here to help. The attorneys here will work with you every step of the way. Please give us a call if you have any questions.