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Eugene Nassif

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated is a serious offense no matter what state you’re in. Iowa law imposes mandatory minimum penalties for OWI convictions which become increasingly harsher the more OWI convictions you have.

However, under Iowa law, certain OWI offenders are eligible for the deferred adjudication program. This gives offenders an opportunity to avoid an OWI conviction all together.  

In this article, we discuss OWI laws in Iowa as they apply to deferred adjudication programs. We cover the following:

  • Who is eligible for Iowa’s deferred adjudication program?
  • What are the requirements for Iowa’s deferred adjudication program?
  • Why choose the deferred adjudication program?
  • What happens if you fail to complete the program or violate the terms of the program?

Who is eligible for Iowa’s deferred adjudication program?

The determination of whether an offender will be granted deferred adjudication is within the discretion of the judge on the case. However, to be eligible for deferred judgment, the offender’s OWI cannot involve injuries to another person and the offender:

  • Hasn't been previously convicted of an OWI or received a deferred judgment;
  • Hasn't had a previous OWI-related license revocation;
  • Submitted to chemical testing and had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .15% or less; and
  • Didn't refuse chemical testing under Iowa’s implied consent laws.

Generally, prior DUI/OWI convictions and deferred judgments from out of state are also considered in this determination. If you have an out of state conviction, you likely do not qualify for this program.  

What are the requirements for Iowa’s deferred adjudication program?

To enter the program, the offender must plead guilty to the OWI charge. The court will not enter the conviction, but instead will place the offender on probation, typically for a year. If the defendant completes the program, the OWI charge will be dismissed.

The deferred adjudication program generally requires the offender to:

  • Pay a civil fine (typically $625-1,250), court costs and restitution, if applicable;
  • Complete a substance abuse evaluation and any recommended treatment;
  • Pay the evaluation and treatment fees;
  • Complete community service work; and
  • Not use any drugs or alcohol during the term of the program.

The defendant must comply with any driver’s license restrictions imposed by the Iowa DMV or the court. In most circumstances, the offender can apply for a temporary restricted license, which will allow them to continue to drive in limited circumstances. To apply for this restricted license, these people will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle the offender uses.  

Why choose the deferred adjudication program?

The major benefits of undergoing Iowa’s deferred adjudication program are that the OWI charge will be dismissed and no conviction will result and the offender will avoid mandatory OWI penalties which in Iowa includes jail time and fines.

The arrest will still remain on the offender’s criminal record and their driving record will still show a chemical test failure. Additionally, courts will still treat the completed program as a first offense for purposes of future OWI offenses.  

What happens if you fail to complete the program or violate the terms of the program?

If the offender fails to successfully complete the program or violates the conditions of the program, the court can revoke probation and enter a conviction for the OWI. Prior to revoking probation, the court will give the defendant an opportunity to be heard to explain why the court shouldn’t revoke/terminate probation. If probation is revoked, the offender will receive the same penalties they otherwise would as first offenders for an OWI.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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