OWI 1st, 2nd and 3rd

Determining Which Offense Current Charge is: First, Second or Third Offense

Only prior criminal convictions are counted to determine if a criminal charge is a First OWI, Second OWI or Third OWI offense.  Prior license suspensions may be considered by sentencing judges but cannot form the basis for an enhancement of the pendingcriminal charge.

How far back are drunk driving convictions considered?

Iowa has a twelve (12) year “look back period” which is used to determine whether the current charge is a 1st OWI, 2nd OWI or3rd OWI offense.  The clock runs from the date of sentencing on the prior conviction to the date of the alleged current charge.

Example:  Person is arrested for operating while intoxicated on January 1, 2010.  He has a prior arrest for operating while intoxicated on November 1, 1997 however he was not sentenced for the first offense until January 15, 1998.  While the offense occurred more than 12 years before the pending offense, the person was sentenced for the first offense within 12 years of the new charge thus making the new charge a 2nd offense, an OWI - Second Offense.

Third OWI Offenses

When determining whether an offense is a Third OWI offense, the level of prior offense is irrelevant.  All that matters is whether the individual has been convicted of any level of operating while intoxicated within the “look back period.”  In other words you don’t have to be convicted of a 2nd offense in order for the next charge to be a 3rd offense.  Sometimes prosecutors will amend a 2nd offense down to a 1st offense as part of a plea bargain but if that person picks up another charge and has two prior convictions for any level of operating while intoxicated, the new charge will be a 3rd offense.

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