Iowa DUI laws

Iowa DUI laws

by Corie Lynn Rosen, December 2009

Iowais bordered by the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, but when it comes to the state's rules against drunk driving, there is nothing watered down about the Iowa's policies. The 29th state uses tough punishments and strident rules to keep its highways and public roads safe from those who try to operate their vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

As in other states, an arrest for driving under the influence in Iowa will trigger two proceedings. The first of these is an administrative hearing conducted by the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles. At the DMV hearing, the arrestee's license restrictions will be determined, at least in part. If you have been arrested for drunk driving in Iowa, it is important that you contact the DMV right away in order to prevent receiving the maximum punishment.

The administrative hearing proceeds in a fairly standard manner, and anyone accused of driving under the influence should file to request permission to keep his driver's license, at least until a final determination is made at the criminal trial. The administrative hearing is a preliminary measure and, unless the arrestee has filed a request to keep his license, often results in the wholesale suspension of the accused's driving privileges.

The second proceeding is the criminal trial, in which the state will put on evidence and the arrestee will be given the opportunity to present his side of the story. The criminal proceedings are somewhat more complex than the administrative hearing and the prosecutor will use two possible theories to determine the guilt of the accused. The first of these is the per se theory, which says that anyone whose blood alcohol content meets or exceeds the legally established limit was per se intoxicated at the time the test was administered. Because blood, breath, and urine testing can be flawed and the test results can be compromised by extraneous factors, test are not always reliable evidence and in many cases test results provide insufficient evidence to convict or dismiss. In those cases, and under circumstances where test results are inconclusive or unavailable, the prosecution will proceed on the second theory, the common law theory of liability.

Traditionally, liability for driving under the influence is determined by subjective factors and the evidence is generally based on the observations, notes, or other recordings made by the arresting officer at the time of arrest. These include, but are not limited to the overall appearance of the arrestee, his driving pattern, speech pattern, smell of alcohol, and performance on field sobriety tests.

If the court is able to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the arrestee was driving under the influence based on evidence that he was intoxicated at the time of arrest, a judgment will be entered. First time offenders in Iowa can expect fines up to fifteen hundred dollars and, depending on the severity of the offense, may also be sentenced to jail time up to one year. To avoid these hefty fines and harsh penalties, those who plan to drive in Iowa should use their best judgment when consuming alcohol. The safest way to avoid trouble is to heed the old advice: don't drink and drive.