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Penalties for Repeat OWI Offenders Increase in Iowa

A person convicted of multiple operating while intoxicated offenses could face harsher penalties under a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2019. The statute, which was approved by Governor Kim Reynolds in March of 2019, states that an individual with two prior OWI convictions may be sentenced as a habitual offender, which increases the time they could spend behind bars.

Previous Conviction Penalties

Under previous laws, a third OWI offense was a class ‘D’ felony. The maximum prison term for a conviction was 5 years. However, with the new law in effect, a judge could sentence a habitual offender to up to 15 years in prison.

Iowa Supreme Court Ruling

The new legislation was proposed after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a defendant could not be punished as a habitual offender. An Iowa man was charged with a third OWI and as a habitual offender. The jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to up to 15 years of incarceration, with a minimum of 3 years’ confinement.

The man challenged the decision, arguing that his charge could not be considered under the habitual offender statute. At the time, it was defined as a person convicted of a class “C” or “D” felony who had two previous felony convictions.

However, the district court did not grant his motion to correct the sentence.

The man appealed the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court. The court asserted that the habitual offender statute did not apply to the case because the OWI laws had a maximum sentence of 5 years. Therefore, the defendant was not subject to the 15-year sentencing.

After the ruling, legislatures updated Iowa Code § 321J.2 to read:

Notwithstanding the maximum sentence set forth in paragraph “a”, a person convicted of a third or subsequent offense may be sentenced as a habitual offender pursuant to sections 902.8 and 902.9…

Call Keegan, Tindal & Mason for Decades of Legal Experience on Your Side

With the new law in place, being convicted of multiple OWIs could result in a lengthy incarceration sentence. To minimize the chances of that happening, reach out to our experienced team today. We know the law and will be with you every step of the way, skillfully guiding you through the process. Our attorneys have a track record of success, and we will work toward getting your charges reduced or dropped.

Speak with a member of our team by calling us at (319) 499-5524 or contacting us online.