When Can a Vehicle Be Impounded or Forfeited for OWI In Iowa?

The penalties for an Operating While Intoxicated conviction in Iowa are high. Even on a first offense, a conviction will result in a significant fine, driver's license revocation, and a possible jail sentence. The penalties increase with subsequent offenses and high blood alcohol content cases. If the defendant caused an accident resulting in serious injury or death, the penalties will include a significant prison sentence.

The penalties can also include impoundment of the defendant's vehicle. If a driver is arrested for OWI and has one or more prior OWI convictions, or is driving in violation of a license revocation for OWI, the arresting officer has authority to seize the driver's vehicle at the time of the arrest and have it immediately impounded or immobilized. If the arresting officer does not impound the vehicle, the court will do so if the defendant is convicted and has one or more prior OWI offenses.

The vehicle will remain impounded or immobilized for the longer of 180 days or the completion of the license revocation period. Operating a vehicle in violation of an impoundment or immobilization order is a serious misdemeanor in Iowa, and will result in the vehicle's seizure and permanent forfeiture to the state.

Most Iowa residents depend on their vehicles to get to and from work or school and to carry out all the necessary errands of everyday life. Having a vehicle impounded or immobilized is more than a major inconvenience; it is a serious disruption of one's life. The threat of impoundment or immobilization is all the more reason to fight the charges when one is arrested for OWI in Iowa.

Source: Iowa Department of Transportation, "Suspensions/Revocations," accessed June 21, 2015

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