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What constitutes felony OWI in Iowa?

A conviction on drunk driving charges carries serious consequences in Iowa. A first-time drunk driving charge is a serious misdemeanor, and a second offense is an aggravated misdemeanor. Convictions on these charges can result in license revocation, fines and jail time.

In some cases, an OWI in Iowa will be charged as a felony. There are basically two ways this can happen: if the defendant has two or more prior OWI offenses, or if the defendant caused injury or death.

A third or subsequent OWI offense in Iowa is a Class D felony. If convicted the defendant can face a prison sentence of up to five years. The defendant must serve at least 30 days in jail. A fine of $3,125 to $9,375 can also be imposed. Those convicted must also complete an evaluation for substance abuse as well as a course of treatment for drunk drivers.

Drunk driving which results in serious injury is also charged as a Class D felony in Iowa. There is a five-year mandatory prison sentence upon conviction. The judge cannot suspend this sentence. The defendant may also be required to pay a fine of $750 to $7,500, as well as restitution to the victim.

The most serious OWI offense in Iowa is one which leads to the death of another person. This is charged as a Class B felony. The prison sentence for this offense is up to 25 years, and cannot be suspended. In addition, a person convicted of OWI resulting in death is not eligible for release on bail before sentencing or during an appeal. Instead of a fine, the defendant will be ordered to pay victim restitution in the amount of $150,000.

Felony drunk driving is a very serious charge in Iowa. Anyone facing such a charge needs to understand their rights and fight the charges aggressively. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide a significant advantage to the defendant.

Source: Iowa Department of Public Safety, "Iowa's OWI Law," accessed Oct. 23, 2016

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