What Happens If You Drive Under the Influence of Marijuana in Iowa?

Driving under the influence of marijuana can lead to a criminal charge in Iowa. The state’s OWI statute concerns not only violations involving alcohol but also those where a driver is alleged to have any controlled substance, including weed, in their system. The difference between an OWI-alcohol and an OWI-marijuana is that with alcohol, a person is alleged to have committed the offense when they had an unlawful blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or were under the influence of alcohol. With an OWI-marijuana, no legal limit exists, and charges may still be levied even if the driver was not impaired by the substance.

An OWI-marijuana carries the same penalties as an OWI-alcohol. Thus, a conviction can lead to confinement, fines, driver’s license revocation, and/or attendance in a substance abuse program.

If you have been charged with an OWI offense, reach out to Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger by calling (319) 499-5524 or submitting an online contact form. Our Iowa City team provides aggressive defense in these matters.

Does Iowa Have a Separate OWI-Marijuana Law?

Iowa does not have a distinct OWI-marijuana law. If you were accused of driving while under the influence of weed, you would be charged under Iowa Code 321J.2. This is the same statute used to prosecute individuals alleged to have been driving under the influence of alcohol.

The law’s text provides that a person commits an offense when they operate a vehicle “while any amount of a controlled substance is present in” them.

How Is Marijuana Detected?

An officer might pull you over if they believe that your driving behaviors suggest that you are impaired by an intoxicating substance, including marijuana. Weed has various effects on a person that can compromise their ability to drive safely.

For instance, it can:

  • Slow reaction times,
  • Cause a decrease in cognitive performance, and
  • Impair coordination and judgment.

During their initial interview with you, the officer will observe how you are acting and communicating. If they notice signs of marijuana use, such as bloodshot eyes, they might have probable cause to arrest you.

After you’ve been arrested, the officer may direct you to submit a specimen for a blood or urine test. If the test is given within two hours of your arrest and the analysis reveals you had marijuana in your system, the law presumes you were driving under the influence.

Iowa’s OWI-marijuana law does not place any limits on the amount of weed in your system for a charge to be levied. To clarify this point, when a person is arrested for OWI-alcohol, the law presumes that the person was under the influence if their BAC was 0.08 or more. In contrast, with an OWI-marijuana, any amount of the substance is considered a violation.

Over time, marijuana stops affecting a person’s cognitive abilities. However, traces of it can remain in a person for weeks, depending on how much was consumed, how it was ingested, and how often the individual uses it. This means that you can be charged with an OWI-marijuana even if it has been days or weeks since you smoked or ate it and even if you are no longer impaired by it.

What Are the Penalties for a Marijuana OWI?

In Iowa, the potential penalties for an OWI-marijuana conviction are the same as those for an OWI-alcohol. A violation is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the number of previous offenses on your record.

Below are some of the possible punishments for driving high in Iowa:

  • First offense (serious misdemeanor):
    • 48 hours to 1 year in jail
    • $625 to $1,250 in fines
    • Driver’s license revocation for 180 days to 1 year
    • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment and a drinking drivers course
  • Second offense (aggravated misdemeanor):
    • 7 days to 2 years in jail
    • $1,875 to $6,250 in fines
    • Driver’s license revocation for 1 year
    • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment and a drinking drivers course
  • Third offense (class “D” felony):
    • 30 days to 5 years of imprisonment
    • $3,125 to $9,375 in fines
    • Driver’s license revocation for 6 years
    • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment and a drinking drivers course

Fight Your OWI-Marijuana Charge

Iowa has a zero-tolerance law for driving while under the influence of marijuana. Regardless of when you used the substance or whether it affected you while you were behind the wheel, you can still face serious charges and penalties. A criminal defense lawyer can challenge the accusations against you and seek a favorable outcome on your behalf.

To schedule a consultation with one of our Iowa City attorneys at Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger, please contact us at (319) 499-5524 today.