OWI - Drunk Driving Basics

Operating While Intoxicated

Operating While Intoxicated is Iowa’s drunk driving law. Operating While Intoxicated is often referred to as an OWI, DUI or DWI.

Under the laws of the State of Iowa, a conviction for an Operating While Intoxicated offense results when the prosecution is able to prove each of the necessary elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Those elements are listed below.

The defendant operated a motor vehicle; AND
At the time of operation, the defendant was:

  • Under the influence of alcohol and/or drug; or
  • Had an alcohol concentration in excess of .08; or
  • Had “any” amount of controlled substancepresent in their system.

Under the Influence

A person is legally “under the influence” of alcohol or a drug when any one of the following is true as a result of consumption of alcohol or use of a drug:

  • The person's emotions are visibly excited;
  • The person's judgment is impaired;
  • The person has lost control of their bodily actions or movements to any extent; or
  • The person's mental ability has been affected.

“Any amount” of controlled substance means just that; “any amount.”  Thus, if a controlled substance is detected in a person’s system at or near the time they were operating a motor vehicle, they can be charged and potentially convicted of operating while intoxicated even if they were not even necessarily “impaired” by that substance.

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