What Happens to an Iowa Driver’s License if a Driver is Arrested for Drunk Driving in Another State?

It happens more than one would think. An Iowa licensed driver gets arrested for drunk driving in another state. Here are the top five things an Iowa licensed driver should know if they are arrested for drunk driving in another state.

  1. No Iowa Criminal Consequences. There are no criminal consequences in Iowa arising out of an out-of-state drunk driving conviction. Only the state in which the offense was committed has jurisdiction to impose criminal penalties.
  2. The Other State Cannot Directly Revoke the Iowa Driver's License. If a person is arrested for drunk driving in a state that has not issued them a driver's license, that state does not have the legal authority to suspend the out-of-state driver's license. The state where the offense occurred only has jurisdiction to disqualify the driver's privilege to operate a motor vehicle in that particular state. The consequences to the persons driving privileges in all 49 other states will depend upon what the laws of the State that issued the driver's license.
  3. Iowa Will Suspend Your Iowa Driver's License. Yes, Iowa is a member of the Driver License Compact. Iowa will take action even for offenses that occur in non-compact states. Upon receipt of a final administrative decision disqualifying a person's driving privileges for drunk driving in that state, or a criminal drunk driving conviction, the Iowa Department of Transportation will suspend the person's Iowa driving privileges (and consequently your privileges in all 49 other states) as if the offense occurred in Iowa. 
  4. Successful Defense to the Out-Of-State Drunk Driving Charge is Imperative. If an Iowa licensed driver is arrested for drunk driving in another state and wishes to avoid the suspension of their Iowa driver's license, their best chance of doing so is to successfully defend the drunk driving charge in the state of where arrested. There are arguments that can be made after-the-fact depending upon the laws of the offense state, but the best way to avoid a suspension of a person's Iowa driver's license for an out-of-state arrest for drunk driving is to successfully defend that charge.
  5. Ostrich Approach Will Not Work. Iowa will not reinstate your full driving privileges unless all of the obligations for the other state are first satisfied. Ignoring the requirements of the other state will not help and will only prolong the suspension of the person's Iowa driving privileges. This includes obtaining and filing a substance abuse evaluation, completing any treatment if recommended, serving jail time (if applicable), paying off all financial obligations and completing any required drunk driving education programs.