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Drug OWI

States have found it difficult address the problems created when a person drives under the influence of prescription drugs. As a result, different states have created very formulations of the prescription-drug defense. Iowa has adopted the most restrictive version of all when it enacted a statute prohibiting driving with any controlled substance in the body. This restrictive version of OWI was adopted because the perceived difficulty in proving impairment at trial. 

In essence, the Iowa legislature created a short cut for prosecutors which eliminated the “impairment” requirement. This type of OWI charge is called the zero tolerance per se version of OWI for drug impairment (often called “OWID” or “DUID” or “DWID” in other states). This OWI statute applies to marijuana, street drugs like cocaine and MDMA, and even prescription medication.


Des Moines OWI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with driving while under the influence of a controlled substance then contact an experienced Polk County OWI defense attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C.. Aaron Hamrock is particularly experienced in fighting these types of cases. He is a member of the National College of DUI

Aaron Hamrock is particularly experienced in fighting these types of cases. He is a member of the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD) which helps training the top DUI, DWI, and OWI attorneys across the country. Additionally, Aaron Hamrock recently argued a case before the Iowa Supreme Court regarding whether the prescription drug defense applied in an administrative suspension revocation hearing.

Call McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. today to discuss the particular facts of your case.


Overview on OWI in Iowa


Types of OWI Charges in Iowa

Today, Iowa Code section 321J.2(1) has several different types of OWI charges including driving:

Iowa Code § 321J.2(1)(a )–(c ) (2011) (emphasis added).

For cases involving impairment by drugs, local law enforcement agencies in Iowa used special techniques for drug recognition testing. For instance, all traffic officers with the Des Moines Police Department are certified to detect and apprehend drivers under the influence of alcohol.

In fact, the police department in Des Moines, Iowa, has three officers trained and certified as Drug Recognition Experts (more properly called Drug Recognition Evaluators). These DRE officers are often called upon to investigate drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of drugs or narcotics.


Section 321J.2(1)(c) for OWI Drugs

Iowa Code Section 321J.2 (1)(c) criminalizes driving with any amount of a controlled substance in one's system. The term “any amount” means any amount greater than zero. The “any amount” provision avoids proof problems for the prosecutor in determining the level of a controlled substance in the driver's blood or urine and whether the drug impaired the ability to drive. Id.at 776. 

The minimum levels of a controlled substance required for proof of a detectable or measured amount are listed in 661 I.A.C. 7.9 (321J).


History of Iowa OWI Drug Statute

Iowa Code section 321J.2 makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Section 321J.2 was amended in 1998 to create a per se ban on driving with any amount of a controlled substance in the body regardless of whether a person is “under the influence” of that controlled substance. State v. Comried, 693 N.W.2d 773, 775–78 (Iowa 2005). See Iowa Code § 321J.2(1)(c). 

A controlled substance is defined as any drug, substance, or compound that is listed in Iowa Code section 124.204 or 124.206, or any metabolite or derivative of the drug, substance, or compound. Iowa Code § 321J.1(4).

The distinction between this alternative and the first alternative discussed is that not all drugs are considered to be controlled substances as listed in Code section 124.204 or 124.206. In other words, impaired driving may occur through the use of drugs which do not fall into the specific controlled substance definitions. See, e.g., State v. Bond, 493 N.W.2d 826 (Iowa 1992).

An impaired driver taking prescription medication may be able to assert an affirmative defense. Iowa Code § 321J.2(7).


Working with a Polk County Attorney for a OWI Drug Case

If you are charged with the serious offense of OWI, then contract an experienced criminal defense attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C.. Our attorneys have the training and experience necessary to fight these difficult cases.

We represent clients charged with operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or controlled substances throughout the entire State of Iowa including Des Moines, West Des Moines, and the following counties: Polk County, Warren County, Dallas County, Madison County and Guthrie County.


This article was last updated on Monday, July 17, 2017.

Tell Us About Your Case

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