What Is an OWI Temporary Restricted License in Iowa?

In Iowa, one of the penalties you can face for an OWI conviction is the loss of your driver's license. Depending on the nature of the offense, the suspension or revocation period can vary. For instance, if this is your first violation and you submitted to a chemical test, you could be subject to a 180-day suspension. However, the suspension period increases to 1 year if it's your first offense and you refused a chemical test.

Losing your driving period for any length of time can create serious hardship. For example, without any other feasible means of transportation available, you might struggle to get to work or take your kids to school. Fearing what would happen if you don't take care of your daily responsibilities, you might choose to operate your vehicle even though your driver's license has been suspended or revoked.

However, driving on a suspended or revoked driver's license is illegal. You could be charged with a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in prison and/or between $430 to $2,560 in fines with an additional assessment of a $1,000 fine. The court can also order that your driving privileges be suspended or revoked for an additional period equal to that of the initial suspension or revocation period.

So what are your options if you have lost your driving privileges because of an OWI conviction?

Iowa's Temporary Restricted License

Iowa law allows qualifying individuals to apply for a temporary restricted license (TRL). If you are eligible and the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) approves your TRL application, you would be able to drive in any way allowed by a person holding a valid class C driver's license.

To be eligible for a TRL, you must install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on all vehicles you own and/or intend to operate. An IID attaches to your vehicle's ignition, and you must blow into it before starting your car. If the machine detects alcohol on your breath, your vehicle won't start. Throughout your trip, the IID may signal for you to provide an additional breath sample.

Who Is Not Eligible for a TRL in Iowa?

A temporary restricted license is only available under certain circumstances.

The following individuals do not qualify for a TRL:

Additionally, if you were convicted of an OWI involving death (Iowa Code § 321J.4(6)), you cannot have a TRL during the mandatory period of suspension, which is 2 years. Also, if you drive a commercial vehicle for work, you cannot operate such vehicles even if you have a TRL.

Can the TRL Be Revoked?

As noted before, if you are granted a TRL, you must provide proof that you have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle you drive.

Your TRL may be revoked if you:

  • Drive a car that does not have an IID, or
  • Tamper with or circumvent the IID.

Tampering with or circumventing an IID is also a criminal offense. For example, if you have someone else blow into the machine or you attempt to reconfigure the device so it does not detect alcohol on your breath, you could be charged with a serious misdemeanor. Again, the penalties for this level of offense include jail for up to 1 year and a fine of not more than $2,560.

Getting Legal Help with a TRL

Understandably, you may be feeling frustrated after losing your driving privileges in an OWI matter. But know that you have options for continuing to lawfully operate a vehicle during the suspension period.

At Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger, we are here to help you with your driver's license-related matter following an OWI conviction or chemical test refusal or failure. Our focus is doing what we can to protect your rights and privileges.

To speak with us about a temporary restricted license or the process for reinstating your driving privileges in Iowa City, call us at (319) 499-5524 or submit an online contact form today. We offer a free initial consultation.