First Offense OWI Attorneys
Fighting First-Time Drunk Driving Charges
In Iowa, even a first-time operating while under the influence (OWI) charge is serious. Depending on the situation, the arrest alone can lead to a driver's license revocation, which can seriously hamper a person's ability to carry out their daily tasks, such as going to work or the grocery store. A conviction for a first offense OWI also carries the possibility of driver's license suspension, and it can lead to incarceration, fines, and a bevy of other sanctions. Thus, if you've been accused, you need experienced legal representation on your side to fight the charge and seek to avoid the severe consequences associated with this crime.
At Branstad & Olson, our Des Moines first offense OWI lawyers understand the hurdles that can arise in such matters. That is why we take these cases seriously. When you choose us, you can be sure that you will have counsel on your side committed to fighting toward the best possible outcome on your behalf. From the start of your case, our attorneys invest the time and resources necessary to build an aggressive defense. To do that, we listen to your side of the story and examine every detail, noting any weaknesses in proof, procedural errors, or misconduct that could impact your case.
Iowa's First Offense OWI Laws
The first offense OWI laws in Iowa are similar to those concerning second or subsequent violations. Of course, the difference is that the individual has not previously been convicted of this crime.
Under Iowa Code § 321J.2, a person commits an OWI when they operate a vehicle:
- While under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol,
- With an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, or
- When they have any amount of a controlled substance in their system.
A driver may be considered "operating a vehicle" when they are in control of a moving vehicle or one that has been started. Thus, even if the person was not actually driving the car, if the engine was running and they could manipulate one of the controls that propel the vehicle, they could be charged with an offense.
Additionally, a person could be considered "under the influence" if their normal faculties, such as their cognitive and motor abilities, were impaired because of the substance.
At Branstad & Olson, we recognize that the arresting officer may have collected evidence to help the prosecution prove that the driver was under the influence while operating a vehicle. However, we also know that improper procedures could diminish the integrity of such evidence. When we take on a case, we examine the preliminary tests run on the driver, the chemical test analyses, and other logs and reports to determine if anything may have skewed the results. Our first-offense OWI attorneys in Des Moines are prepared to do what it takes to protect your rights.
Penalties for a First-Time OWI
As mentioned earlier, the penalties for a first-offense OWI conviction are steep.
The potential punishments include the following:
- Jail time: The court may impose a minimum term of 48 hours and a maximum of up to 1 year.
- Probation: The court may decide to defer judgment and place the defendant on probation with certain conditions. Violators may be punished by probation revocation and a jail term. Those who successfully complete probation will have their cases discharged.
- Fine: The court may impose a maximum fine of $1,250. At the judge's discretion, they can waive up to $625 of this sanction.
- Community service: The court may waive a portion of the fine and order the defendant to unpaid community service.
- Victim restitution: The court may order the defendant to compensate the victim for any damages caused by the OWI offense.
- Driver's license revocation: Driving privileges may be revoked for 180 days (if the defendant took a chemical test to measure alcohol concentration) or 1 year (if the defendant refused the chemical test).
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment: The court may order the defendant to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment by an agency to identify issues and provide recommendations for addressing the problem.
- Drinking drivers course: The court may order the defendant to a 12-hour course designed to help the individual assess and correct their behaviors.
- Substance abuse prevention program: The court may order the defendant to a course focused on providing evidence-based drug and/or alcohol use prevention strategies.
Our Des Moines first-time OWI offense lawyers are aware that this can be a confusing and frightening time. When you turn to us, we stand by you, helping you understand your cases' potential outcomes and possible defenses that can be raised.
Iowa’s Implied Consent Law
Iowa’s implied consent law (Iowa Code § 321J.6) provides that anyone lawfully arrested for an OWI is deemed to have given their consent to participate in a chemical test to determine alcohol concentration or the presence of a controlled substance. The arresting officer decides whether the person is subject to a blood, breath, or urine analysis. If the person refuses a blood test, the officer may have them participate in a breath or urine test. A refusal to participate can result in a driver’s license revocation.
First-Time OWI Administrative Penalties
In addition to criminal penalties, an OWI also carries administrative sanctions. Technically, these are assessed after an arrest and before the criminal case concludes. Also, administrative punishments are concerned only with the accused's driving privileges – specifically, whether or not the person should be allowed to maintain a valid driver's license.
The administrative driver’s license revocation periods are as follows:
- 180 days: Failing a chemical test (alcohol concentration of .08 or more or presence of a controlled substance)
- 1 year: Refusing a breath or urine test
Depending on the circumstances, the driver’s license revocation may take place immediately – the arresting officer confiscates it and issues a temporary license – or within 10 days after a notice of revocation has been issued to the individual.
After the revocation period expires, driving privileges can be reinstated by:
- Paying a $200 penalty,
- Completing a drinking driver course,
- Completing a substance evaluation and treatment service,
- Providing proof of SR-22 insurance, and
- Complying with ignition interlock device requirements (if applicable)
Restricted Driver’s License and IID Installation
A person whose noncommercial driver’s license has been suspended because of an OWI can seek a temporary restricted license (TRL). Under Iowa Code § 321J.20, the restricted license may be issued only after the individual has had an ignition interlock device installed on all vehicles they own or operate. The TRL gives the person the privilege to drive in any way allowed by a class C driver’s license.
Reach Out to Our Firm Today
If you’ve been accused of driving under the influence, our first-offense OWI lawyers in Des Moines can aggressively fight your charge. We will be your loyal champion throughout your case.
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