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Can Iowa revoke an out-of-state license for OWI?

A lot of out-of-state residents drive into and through Iowa on a daily basis. In addition, our state is home to a number of colleges and universities with a lot of out-of-state students. When someone from another state is arrested for drunk driving in Iowa, a frequent question is whether Iowa can revoke an out-of-state driver's license.

No state, including Iowa, has the power to revoke a driver's license issued by another state. The state of Iowa can, however, revoke a person's nonresident driving privileges. This can be a significant problem for someone who needs to drive in Iowa on a regular basis.

In addition, Iowa is a party to an interstate agreement, the Driver License Compact, under which member states share information about license suspensions and traffic violations. Most states in the U.S. have signed the Compact.

When an out-of-state resident is convicted of OWI in Iowa, Iowa authorities will report the conviction to the person's home state. Under the Compact, that state will apply its own laws to the offense which, in a drunk driving case, will usually mean revocation or suspension of the person's license.

Similarly, if a person with an Iowa driver's license is convicted of drunk driving in another state, Iowa will revoke their license as if the offense occurred in Iowa.

Fortunately, out-of-state drivers have the same rights in an Iowa court as any Iowa resident. This means they have the right to challenge the reasonable basis for the stop, the accuracy of field sobriety and breath tests, and the right to cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution. Whether a person has an Iowa license or one from another state, they have the right to fight an OWI charge in court.

Source: National Center for Interstate Compacts, "Driver License Compact," accessed April 11, 2016

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