Iowa Drunk Driving Laws

When is a Driver Considered to be Legally Drunk in Iowa?

  • Non-commercial drivers age 21+ are considered legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .08 or more.
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles are legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .04 percent or greater. In Iowa, school bus drivers are commercial drivers.
  • Drivers under 21 are legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .02 or more.

Penalties for Drunk Driving in Iowa

  • First-time offenders face a term of imprisonment 48 hours to one year and are subject to pay a fine of up to $1,250. The driver’s license revocation period is 180 days to one year.
  • Second-time offenders face a term of imprisonment of seven days to two years and are subject to pay a fine of $1,875 to $6,250. Depending on the circumstances, the offender’s driver’s license may be revoked for up to two years.
  • Those who commit a third or subsequent offense face up to five years in prison and are subject to pay a fine of $3,225 to $9,375. Depending on the circumstances, the offender’s driver’s license may be revoked for up to six years.
  • All persons convicted of operating while under the influence (OWI) in Iowa must undergo a substance abuse consultation and may be ordered to participate in a reality education substance abuse prevention program.
  • A judge may order “emergency response” restitution of $500 per agency dispatched if a drunk driver necessitates fire fighters, police, ambulance, medical, or other emergency services to be dispatched.

Enhanced Penalties for Causing Serious Injury or Death

  • If a drunk driver caused a third party to suffer a serious injury, the offender’s driver’s license will be revoked for an additional year.
  • If a drunk driver caused the death of a third party, the offender’s driver’s license will be revoked for six years.

Ignition Interlock

Convicted drunk drivers can request temporary restricted licenses during a portion of their driver’s license revocation periods. A convicted drunk driver’s license, however, must be revoked for a specific time period that is determined from the circumstances surrounding the conviction before the offender is eligible to apply for a restricted license. If a judge grants the request, the offender must install an ignition interlock device on all vehicles that he or she owns or operates.

Commercial Drivers

In addition to other penalties associated with Iowa’s OWI laws, a commercial driver who is convicted of OWI while driving any vehicle will be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle for one year. If, however, the offender was driving a commercial vehicle and transporting hazardous materials at the time, the disqualification period is three years. A commercial driver who is convicted of OWI a second time will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for life, which may or may not be reduced to 10 years.

Drivers Under 21

In addition to other penalties that may apply, an underage driver who commits an OWI will have his or her driver’s license revoked in accordance with the laws applicable to adult offenders. Underage drivers who are convicted of OWI are not eligible to apply for a restricted license for at least 60 days. First-time offenders may participate in Iowa’s Youthful Offender Substance Abuse Awareness Program which consists of an insight class and a substance abuse consultation. The program may also include a supervised educational tour to a hospital or an emergency care facility that regularly receives victims of motor vehicle accidents or to a morgue to receive appropriate educational material and instruction concerning damages caused by alcohol or other drugs.

back to top

What is Iowa’s Dram Shop Act and Civil Liability Act for Dispensing Liquor to Underage Persons?

Under Iowa’s Dram Shop Act, a person who is injured by an intoxicated person has a right of action for all damages he or she sustains against the licensed drinking establishment that sold and served alcohol to the intoxicated person, so long as the establishment knew or should have known that the person was intoxicated or would become intoxicated. This Act requires the injured person to give written notice to the drinking establishment or its insurance carrier of the victim’s intention to sue within six months of the injury. The notice must include the time, place, and circumstances that caused the injury.

Iowa’s Dram Shop Act also includes the law regarding civil liability for dispensing liquor to underage persons. This law permits a person who is injured by an intoxicated person who is under 21 to bring an action for all damages he or she sustains against the person who gave the liquor to the minor, so long as that person knew or should have known that the minor was underage.

back to top

Criminal and Civil Penalties for Selling or Alcohol to a Minor

If a licensed drinking establishment sells liquor to a minor, the owner is subject to pay a $1,500 fine, and the employee who served the minor is subject to pay a $500 fine. Offenders also face up to 30 days in jail. In addition, civil penalties apply. For a first violation, the civil penalty is $500. Failure to pay the penalty will result in an automatic 14-day liquor license suspension. A second violation within two years subjects the licensee to a 30-day liquor license suspension and payment of a $1,500 civil penalty. A third violation within three years subjects the licensee to a 60-day liquor license suspension and a $1,500 civil penalty. A fourth violation within three years will result in revocation of the offender’s liquor license.

back to top

Criminal Penalties for Giving Alcohol to a Minor

A person who is 21 or older who gives alcohol to a minor commits a crime punishable by up to one year in prison and payment of a fine of $500 to $1,500. If, however, a violation of this law results in serious injury to any person, the offender faces up to two years in prison and payment of a fine of $500 to $5,000. If the violation results in the death of any person, the offender faces up to five years in prison and payment of a fine of $750 to $7,500.

Need more information on state laws? Learn more about the laws where you live.

back to top

Note: Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. This information is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, although if you are injured in an accident, we have relationships with other personal injury attorneys and lawyers throughout the United States.

Please note: All of our lawyers are licensed to practice in the state of Pennsylvania. We also have lawyers licensed to practice in Ohio, and West Virginia and we associate with experienced attorneys in other states.

The materials at this web site have been prepared by our Law Firm for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. These materials do not, and are not, intended to constitute legal advice. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. The information provided at this site is subject to change without notice. Although we try to keep our site current and accurate, you should not rely on this information or its applicability to any specific circumstances without speaking with an attorney.
Free Case Review
First Name
Last Name
ZIP
Phone
Email
Briefly describe your injuries