Implied consent laws state that anyone driving on public roadways is deemed to have consented to a chemical test if an officer arrested them for operating while under the influence. The analyses determine the driver's blood alcohol concentration or the presence of a controlled substance in their system. Refusing or failing a chemical test can result in a driver's license revocation for up to 2 years, depending on the situation. Hiring an attorney can help contest administrative actions against driving privileges.
An Introduction to Implied Consent Laws
Iowa's implied consent law requires drivers to submit a blood, breath, or urine analysis when requested by an officer if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the driver was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OWI).
The process begins with a lawful arrest, after which the officer will submit a written request for a specimen from the driver. Under the implied consent law, any driver in Iowa is considered to have given permission to be subject to chemical tests. A refusal to participate may result in consequences such as driver's license revocation.
The Purpose of Blood, Breath, or Urine Tests in an OWI Case
Iowa Code § 321J.2 states that it is illegal for a person to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more. It is also unlawful for anyone to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
In OWI cases, a driver's blood, breath, or urine is analyzed if they are suspected of having been behind the wheel in violation of the law. The chemical tests determine whether the person had an unlawful BAC or had drugs in their body while driving.
The Applicability of Implied Consent Laws
The implied consent law applies to tests administered after a driver has been pulled over on reasonable grounds that they violated Iowa Code § 321J.2. It does not apply to the preliminary screening the officer gives on the side of the road using a handheld device.
The results of the preliminary breath screening can be used to justify the officer making an OWI arrest. A driver who refuses the initial screening or breathes into the device and has a BAC of 0.08 or higher gives the officer justification for requesting an evidentiary blood, breath, or urine analysis – that given after the arrest.
Whereas the evidentiary chemical test results can be used to build a case against the driver and presented as evidence, the preliminary screening results cannot be used the same.
The Legal Consequences of Refusing a Chemical Test
A chemical test refusal or failure (having a BAC of 0.08 or more) can result in a driver's license revocation. The length of the revocation depends on two factors: whether the driver participated in the test and whether the driver has prior revocations under the implied consent law.
Below are the lengths of time for which driver's licenses can be revoked:
- Refusal with no previous revocations: 1 year
- Refusal with at least 1 previous revocation: 2 years
- Unlawful BAC with no previous revocations: 180 days
- Unlawful BAC with at least 1 previous revocation: 1 year
The Role of a Lawyer in Challenging Driver's License Revocations
A criminal defense attorney is critical in fighting charges for chemical test refusals. An experienced lawyer will be well-versed in the law, can analyze their client's case, and determine what arguments to raise. Representing their client at an administrative hearing, they can seek a favorable outcome, which could protect the individual's driving privileges.At Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger, we help the people of Iowa City and Davenport through challenging OWI matters. Schedule a consultation by contacting us at (319) 499-5524.