Iowa's Zero Tolerance Law for Underage Drunk Driving

Iowa's drunk driving laws are very strict. For those who are under the legal drinking age of 21, they are even more strict -- and the consequences for a youthful error in judgment can last well into adulthood.

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In Iowa, the legal limit for OWI for those over age 21 is a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent. For a person under the age of 21, however, the legal limit is 0.02 percent. The State of Iowa calls this a "zero tolerance" law, and although that's not strictly accurate, it's pretty close. For a person who weighs 160 to 240 pounds, it only takes one beer, one glass of wine or one mixed drink to reach a BAC of 0.02. For someone who weighs less than 160 pounds, less than one drink is enough to reach the 0.02 legal limit.

The consequences of an underage drunk driving arrest are serious. If the individual's BAC was .02 or more, but under 0.08, they will be subject to a 60-day driver's license revocation on a first offense and a 90-day revocation for subsequent offenses. If the person refuses a breath test, their license will be revoked for one year on a first offense and two years for subsequent offenses. And unlike drivers over age 21, drivers whose licenses are revoked under the zero tolerance law cannot apply for a temporary restricted license.

Despite the law's harshness, there are still defenses that can be raised. As in any Iowa OWI case, the defendant can argue that he or she was subjected to an illegal stop without probable cause. The defendant can also call into question the accuracy of the breath test that led to the revocation. If the breath test machine was not properly calibrated or the proper testing protocol was not followed, the state's evidence of intoxication can be challenged.

Source: Iowa Department of Public Safety, "Iowa's OWI Law: Operating a motor vehicle

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