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An overview of OWI laws in Iowa

People in Iowa know that drunk driving charges can be serious business, but not everyone knows exactly what it means to be considered a drunk driver under Iowa state law. Drunk driving, or OWI, which stands for "operating while intoxicated", is defined in three ways. A person commits OWI when they do any of the following: 1) operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs or any combination thereof, 2) operating a motor vehicle while having a BAC of .08 or more, or 3) operating a motor vehicle while having any controlled substance in a person's body.

As you can see, Iowa has a very broad definition of what it means to be OWI. While OWI is frequently proven by breath tests and other tests to determine alcohol concentration in the blood stream, it is also possible to get charged with OWI even without this information. In fact, a person can be considered OWI even if they don't have a BAC level of .08 or above. The way the law is written, an officer may arrest a person for OWI even if they have a lower concentration of alcohol in their system.

Iowa's OWI law can also be problematic in that it makes it unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle with any amount of controlled substance in a person's body, even if there is no significant impairment. This means that people who have used marijuana and other substances which remain in the body well after the intoxicating effects have worn off can still be charged with OWI, even days or weeks after the person has ingested the controlled substance.

Iowa's OWI laws can spell big trouble for drivers, even those unaware that they are violating the law. Rather than accepting jail time, license suspensions and other serious consequences for an alleged drunk driving incident, people who are accused of OWI should contact an experienced local defense attorney for more information on how to proceed.

Source:, accessed Aug. 10, 2014

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