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Kevin O'Flaherty

An OWI in Iowa is a serious offense that often requires the careful guidance of an experienced Iowa criminal defense attorney. While no one plans on having an OWI, knowing your rights regarding OWI checkpoints, refusing breathalyzer tests, and the consequences of refusal or failure of any of Iowa sobriety tests is essential. While one might think it would be wise to refuse Iowa sobriety tests like field tests and chemical tests upon being pulled over, some immediate consequences can occur upon refusal.  

Iowa Sobriety Test

In Iowa, when you are pulled over for an OWI, field sobriety tests are a standard way for police to determine how inebriated a driver may be. The following tests are the most common in an Iowa OWI traffic stop:  


One-legged Stand Test  


The officer will ask the driver to stand on one foot without using their arms while counting to 10. The point of this test is to observe seemingly straightforward multi-tasking skills that, presumably, a sober person would be able to complete. Any use of arms, swaying, or hopping could be enough probable cause for arrest.  


Walk-and-turn Test  


A person must walk in a straight line in a heel-to-toe fashion with their arms at their sides. Each step must be counted loud enough for the officer to hear, and nine steps in each direction are required to “pass” the test.  


Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test  


An officer will test the driver’s vision by asking them to look at a light, pen, or finger and follow it with only their eyes as they move the object from left and right. If the driver moves their head or has difficulty following the object with their eyes could be argued as enough probable cause for arrest by police.  

What To Do at A Field Sobriety Checkpoint in Iowa  


If you see the field sobriety checkpoint far enough ahead, it is legal to turn around or reroute to avoid the checkpoint. If the driver does not break any traffic laws that may cause them to be pulled over, you have the option to avoid the checkpoint entirely.  


You must still comply with officers by giving over your license and registration when requested. Some people may avoid questions and roll down their car window by taping a statement to their window stating that they are utilizing their right to remain silent. License and registration can also be put in a bag to hang out the window as well. Tactics like this allow you to comply with the officers' requests while protecting your right to privacy.  

DUI checkpoint sign in iowa with cars passing

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Iowa?  


You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test in Iowa per the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gives you the right not to incriminate yourself. If you refuse a breathalyzer test in Iowa, the officer must read to you the consequences of refusing and failing the test.  


What is Iowa's Implied Consent?  


Iowa's implied consent laws require any person who operates a motor vehicle to agree to have a blood, breath, or urine test to determine alcohol level or the presence of drugs whenever there are reasonable grounds that the person is operating a vehicle under the influence.  


Should You Refuse a Breathalyzer?  


While you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test in Iowa, you should expect to face the penalties of Iowa's Implied Consent Laws. A refusal can still lead to an OWI arrest and charges, but the prosecution will have less evidence of intoxication without the test. On the other hand, the prosecution can use the refusal as evidence of guilt, arguing that you refused the test because you knew you would fail. It is ultimately up to you to weigh the possible consequences of taking a breathalyzer or refusing to take it.    


What is the 2-hour Rule for an OWI in Iowa?  

Chemical tests include samples of blood, breath, or urine. The 2 hour rule in Iowa means that a chemical test must be provided within two hours of being in control of the car. This does not mean you have the right to wait two hours before you decide to test; if the officer does not offer a test within two hours, your license may not be revoked under Iowa law section 321J.9.  



Can I Get Out of An OWI In Iowa?  


It is possible to beat an OWI in Iowa with the help of an experienced OWI attorney who can advise you on what your best defense would be. An attorney may be able to poke holes in the prosecution's case by picking out arrest flaws with evidence such as inaccurate BAC breath or blood tests, medical reasons, and police mistakes.  


If you agreed to take the field sobriety or chemical test and fail, that does not mean your case is lost. Some factors can affect the accuracy of those tests. An attorney may look at things that affect the outcome of tests, such as the surface on which the field sobriety test was conducted, weather conditions, physical conditions, improper procedures, improper machine maintenance, and improper handling of blood samples.  

Another consideration when determining the possibility of beating or lessening an OWI charge is your previous driving record and whether or not this was your first offense. Second-time offenders may have a more challenging time getting out of an OWI in Iowa.  



Is Having A .20 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) Bad?  

Blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, is the standard used to determine the amount of alcohol in a person's bloodstream. On average, a person can process about one standard drink per hour. Factors such as a person's weight, gender, pattern of drinking, and genetics may also affect their BAC.  


In every state in the U.S., the legal limit for driving is a blood alcohol content of .08. A.20 BAC is way over this limit and has many adverse side effects. Common symptoms of this level of impairment include confusion, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, and blackouts.  


Consequences of Refusing a Breath Test in Iowa  

If you refuse a chemical test in Iowa, you can face license revocation, a civil penalty, and ineligibility to avoid hefty fines and jail time that deferred adjudication can offer. Your driving privileges will be removed for one year for refusing a chemical test in Iowa. If you have previous revocation for an OWI, the license suspension goes up to 2 years. If you lose driving privileges, you can be fined up to an additional $200.  


You can apply for a temporary restricted license but must pay $200 in fines and install an ignition interlock device.  



How Long do You Lose Your License in Iowa for OWI?

Your prior driving record affects how long you lose your license in Iowa. A first OWI will result in revocation for 180 days (about six months). A second offense or someone with prior revocation within 12 years will lose their license for one year. Third offense OWIs carry severe consequences with a 6-year revocation period.  For an updated overview on Iowa OWI/DUI laws review our article, Iowa DUI Law Changes 2023.  

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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