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Iowa’s Implied Consent Law - Do you have to take a BAC test?

Updated on
April 6, 2021
Article written by
Eugene Nassif

Iowa’s Implied Consent Law

In this article, we will discuss what happens when a driver is pulled over by a police officer in Iowa and the officer declares a need for the driver to submite to a blood-alcohol-content (BAC) test. We will cover:

  • If you are pulled over in Iowa and the officer demands a BAC test, can you refuse?
  • When will a chemical test be required?
  • What if I refuse a test?
  • Can refusal be used against someone in a criminal case?

If you are pulled over in Iowa and the officer demands a BAC test, can you refuse?

Under Iowa’s implied consent law, any person who operates a motor vehicle is deemed to have given consent to a chemical test for breath, blood and/or urine if there’s reasonable grounds to believe the person was operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

When will a chemical test be required?

Officers are authorized to request a chemical test if there are reasonable grounds to believe the person is operating while intoxicated, and:

  • The person is lawfully under arrest for an OWI;
  • The person was involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in bodily injury or death;
  • The person refused to take a preliminary breath screening test (PBT);
  • A PBT showed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more;
  • A PBT indicated a BAC of less than .08% and the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person is under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol;
  • A PBT indicated a BAC of .04% or more and the person was operating a commercial motor vehicle; or
  • A PBT indicated a BAC of at least .02% or more and the person was under the age of 21.

Once a driver is arrested for an OWI (Operating While under the Influence), the officer will decide what type of test to administer (breath, blood, urine). A driver who agrees to take a breath or urine test can typically refuse to take a blood test without penalty. The test must be requested within 2 hours after the PBT is administered, refused or the arrest is made. Whichever occurs first. If the officer fails to request a chemical test within that time frame, the driver isn’t required to submit to a test.

What if I refuse a test?

The consequence for refusing to take a chemical test are license revocation, a civil penalty, and ineligibility for a deferred judgment. The officer must advise drivers of the consequences of failing or refusing a test. Finally, evidence of a refusal to take a test can be admissible in court.

Administrative suspension for refusal to test

The Iowa DMB will suspend someone’s driving privileges for 1 year for refusing a chemical test. If the person has a prior OWI license revocation, the suspension is 2 years. If your driving privileges are revoked, you will additionally be fined $200.

Once a driver refuses to take a chemical test, the arresting officer can immediately take the person’s license, issuing them a temporary 10-day license. If this happens to you, you can contest the revocation at an administrative hearing.

The offender can apply for a temporary restricted license but will have to pay $200 in fines and install an ignition interlock device to their vehicle if they choose to do so.

Can refusal be used against someone in a criminal case?

Yes. A consequence of refusing a chemical test is that the prosecutor can present evidence of the refusal in the criminal case and can suggest to the judge or jury that the refusal is evidence of guilt. To put it another way, the prosecutor can argue that you refused the test because you knew you would fail.

Eligibility for a deferred adjudication

Deferred adjudication allows first time OWI offenders to avoid mandatory penalties such as large fines and jail time. However, chemical test refusal will bar you from deferred adjudication on an OWI case.  

Conclusion

While a driver can refuse to submit to chemical testing, the penalties for refusing to do so in Iowa are many times more severe than the penalties for failing a test. In Iowa, license revocation for refusal can be up to two times longer than for getting an OWI.

Finally, there are some circumstances that allow police to administer testing without the driver’s consent. If an OWI arrest results in an accident-causing death or injury likely causing death, a chemical test can be administered without the consent of the driver.  

Iowa’s Implied Consent Law - Do you have to take a BAC test?
Author

Eugene Nassif

Eugene Nassif is an associate attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. His primary focus is in business and civil litigation matters.

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