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Underage drinking and driving carries heavy penalties in Iowa

On Behalf of | Jul 13, 2020 | Firm News

Regardless of their age, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have devastating consequences. For some, these drunken errors can have deadly results — the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates 30 people die every day due to a drunk driver.

For offenders, a drunk driving conviction may follow them for the rest of their lives. A criminal record may impact the jobs they can get and the places they can live. Those under 21 may find these challenges very hard to overcome.

Iowa laws on drinking and driving

Iowa law calls driving under the influence “operating while intoxicated” (OWI). For people over 21, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold is any number less than .08%. For younger people, since drinking under age 21 is illegal in Iowa, the BAC threshold is .02%. Iowa law makes it unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle while:

  • their BAC is .02% or higher;
  • under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs; or
  • any trace of a controlled substance is present in blood or urine.

Police officers will make an OWI arrest of an individual who meets any of the above qualifications.

Administrative punishments for OWIs

Iowa’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) delivers swift punishment to those in violation, revoking the license of those arrested who fail chemical tests. Minors facing their first OWI offense will have their license revoked for 60 days or 90 days with any previous OWI-related license revocations.

Minors who refuse chemical tests will face a higher penalty — the DMV will revoke their license for an entire year or two years with a previous revocation.

Criminal punishments

For criminal penalties, underage OWI offenders will face similar punishments as adult offenders. First-time offenders may enter the deferred judgement program. Usually lasting one year, successful completion of this program usually results in the courts dismissing the charges. Failure to complete the program could result in up to a year in jail, $1,250 in fine, probation, and enrollment in a substance abuse program.

A professional criminal defense

Those facing OWI charges in Iowa find more success working with a local lawyer familiar with criminal defense. An attorney can help assess the charges, work with the courts and help individuals work through their conviction.