Iowa OWI Laws and Penalties

How Iowa defines OWI and the consequences of a conviction.

By , Attorney · Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Updated by Jeff Burtka, Attorney · George Mason University Law School

In Iowa, driving under the influence (DUI) is typically referred to as "operating while intoxicated" (OWI). A person can be convicted of OWI for operating a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more
  • while under the influence of any combination of alcohol and drugs, or
  • while having any amount of a controlled substance in the blood or urine.

(Iowa Code § 321J.2 (2024).)

Generally, there are administrative (license related) and criminal penalties imposed when a person is arrested and convicted of OWI.

Jail Time and Fines for Iowa OWI Convictions

The possible penalties for an Iowa OWI conviction increase depending on whether the offender has prior OWIs. Here are the minimum and maximum jail sentences and fines for a first, second, and third OWI conviction:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

Jail Time

48 hours to 1 year

7 days to 2 years

30 days to 5 years


$625 to $1,250

$1,875 to $6,250

$3,125 to $9,375

(Iowa Code § 321J.2 (2024).)

License Revocations for OWI Convictions in Iowa

All Iowa drivers who are convicted of OWI face license revocation. The revocation periods for a first, second, and third OWI are generally as follows:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

Revocation Period

180 days

1 year

6 years

(Iowa Code § 321J.2 (2024).)

An offender can apply for a temporary restrictive license (TRL), which allows the offender to drive during the revocation period. A person who seeks a TRL after a first OWI conviction must install an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicle owned or operated by the offender. The IID must be installed for the period of time the TRL is issued. After a second or subsequent OWI conviction, the IID must be installed for one year (reduced by any period of time that a TRL was held). (Iowa Code §§ 321J.2, 321J.17 (2024).)

Iowa's Implied Consent Laws

Iowa's implied consent laws require all drivers to submit to a breath, blood, and/or urine test if there are reasonable grounds to believe the person was OWI. Motorists who refuse testing generally face a license revocation of one year. If the driver has previous OWI license revocations, the revocation is for two years. (Iowa Code §§ 321J.6, 321J.9 (2024).)

If the offender fails a test and has no previous OWI license revocations, the revocation is for 180 days. The revocation is for one year if the driver fails a test and has had a previous OWI-related license revocation. (Iowa Code § 321J.2 (2024).)

A person whose license has been revoked will also need to pay a $200 civil penalty. (Iowa Code § 321J.17 (2024).)

Other Consequences for OWI Convictions in Iowa

Generally, OWI offenders are sentenced to probation, required to complete treatment, and in some cases, their vehicle is impounded. (Iowa Code §§ 321J.3, 321J.4B (2024).)

Treatment. OWI offenders are required to complete a substance abuse evaluation and any recommended treatment. Second and subsequent offenders might be required by the judge to participate in an inpatient treatment program. Iowa also requires all offenders to complete a course for drinking drivers and, depending on the circumstances, an offender might additionally need to do a reality education substance abuse prevention program. (Iowa Code §§ 321J.2, 321J.3, 321J.24 (2024).)

Probation. OWI offenders are usually required to serve a period of probation and complete a substance abuse prevention program or participate in posttreatment services. (Iowa Code § 321J.3 (2024).)

Vehicle impoundment. For a second or subsequent OWI conviction, the judge is permitted to order the vehicle used during the offense to be impounded or immobilized. The period of impoundment or immobilization is for the longer of the period of license revocation or 180 days. (Iowa Code § 321J.4B (2024).)

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