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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we explain Aggravated Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Iowa. We will answer the following questions:

  • Is there a difference between a misdemeanor OWI and an aggravated OWI in Iowa?
  • What criteria constitute an aggravated OWI?
  • What should you do if you’ve been charged with an aggravated OWI in Iowa?

Is There a Difference Between a Misdemeanor OWI and an Aggravated OWI, in Iowa?

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), is the same as a DUI or DWI in other states, just different terminology. An individual commits the offense of operating while intoxicated if he or she operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drug or a combination of the two. As in all other states, it is illegal to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher while driving, or having a controlled substance in the blood as tested through blood, urine, or breathalyzer.

An aggravated OWI involves certain aggravating factors that elevate the charge from a serious misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor or felony misdemeanor. The first OWI in Iowa is classified as a serious misdemeanor, punishable by a minimum of 48 hours jail time, but not more than one year, and a fine of $1,250. The court may reduce the fine if there was no property or personal injury damage associated with the first OWI offense. The individual’s license may also be revoked for a minimum of 180 days, but no more than one year on the first offense with no aggravating elements.

What Criteria Constitute an Aggravated OWI?

Below is a list of the different scenarios or factors that can elevate a standard OWI to an aggravated or felony OWI and the associated sentencing:

  • Prior OWI convictions: If the intoxicated driver has one prior OWI violation within the last 12 years he will be charged with an aggravated OWI. This is somewhat misleading when compared to Illinois terminology. An aggravated OWI for a second OWI violation is not the equivalent of an aggravated DUI in a state like Illinois, in that it is not yet considered a felony. The sentence for a second OWI violation is 7 days to two years of jail time, a fine of $1,875 to $6,250, and license revocation of one year.
  • Two or more prior OWI convictions: When an intoxicated driver is charged with a third or beyond OWI within a period of 12 years the offense becomes a Class D Felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison with a minimum of 30 days, fine of up to $9,375 and license revocation for up to 6 years.
  • Being charged with an OWI while driving with a suspended, revoked, or invalid license is still considered a serious misdemeanor as long as no bodily harm came to another person while driving. Punishable by 48 hours of jail time and a fine of $1,000, not including the fine for driving with a revoked license. If it is the second OWI it becomes an aggravated misdemeanor and is treated as described in the first item above.
  • OWI with an accident resulting in the serious injury of another individual: If bodily harm comes to another individual as the result of operating while intoxicated the offense immediately becomes a Class D felony with a fine of up to $7,500 and a maximum of five years in prison. If the other individual is a child the injury does not have to be severe but should involve surgery or general anesthesia to be legally considered serious.
  • OWI causing the death of one or more individuals: An OWI charge with vehicular manslaughter is considered a Class B Felony with jail time of up to 25 years; the sentence cannot be suspended, and the individual is not eligible for release on bail during sentencing or an appeal.
  • OWI with one or more children in the vehicle: An OWI, even just the first offense, is immediately elevated to an aggravated OWI or beyond when children are present in the vehicle at the time of the offense. If no bodily harm comes to the child and it is the first OWI offense it will stay as an aggravated misdemeanor. If bodily harm comes to the child the severity of classification escalates with the degree of bodily harm. The driver may face other charges such as child endangerment, and if the driver is a parent they will likely face a visit from DCFS.
  • Other criteria that may elevate an OWI offense include driving 30 mph over the speed limit, having a BCA over 20% of the legal limit, being under 21 years old at the time of the offense, and refusing to submit to a chemical test.

What Should You Do if You’ve Been Charged With an Aggravated OWI in Iowa?

Whether it’s your first OWI offense or a more severe situation the best action you can take to commute your punishment is to secure an experienced OWI attorney. They can walk you through the options available to lessen your fine and/or punishment, work with the judge, and possibly save your ability to continue to drive. If you’ve been convicted of an OWI in Iowa, don’t hesitate to give our office a call at 630-324-6666 and speak with one of our experienced attorneys.

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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