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First OWI Penalties in Iowa

You may have never had a run-in with the law, and never expected you would. But while driving, you saw the flashing lights behind you. Soon, you were being booked into the jail for operating while intoxicated, a criminal charge. Having a first OWI is a frightening experience. However, you still have rights that you can and should exercise. Even if you know you had a few drinks before the arrest, you can still fight the charges.

At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., you can hire a Des Moines first OWI lawyer who will fight vigorously for you. We understand that this is a scary and important time for you. We use our experience and passion to represent every client while figting for the best result. And while this may be your first time at the courthouse, it’s certainly not ours — we have four decades of combined legal experience, which we will put to work for your defense. Call us today at (515) 279-9700 for a free consultation.

At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., we represent clients facing their first OWI charge throughout the Des Moines area, including Ankeny, Johnston and anywhere in Polk County, Dallas County or the state of Iowa. Our offices are based in West Des Moines, Iowa.


Blood-Alcohol Content in an Iowa First OWI

It is illegal in Iowa to drive with a blood-alcohol content of .08, while under the influence of alcohol or with any amount of any controlled substances in your system.  

Many people believe that a .08 means two drinks, and they have nothing to fear from driving after having a couple, or even taking a DUI test if they get pulled over, especially if they’ve never gotten into trouble before. In reality, blood-alcohol content is a complicated matter. Many factors play into BAC: weight, height, sex and how much you’ve eaten, for example. Additionally, if a DUI breath test is not properly calibrated, it can register a higher BAC than what you really had.


Punishments for a Des Moines First DUI

It is true that punishments are lighter for a first OWI. You first drunk driving offense is a serious misdemeanor. However, there is a minimum 48 hours in jail, if convicted. If there was injury or property damage involved, you will face a fine of at least $1,250; if not, the fine is at least $625. In lieu of a fine, you may be ordered to perform community service.

You will also lose your driver’s license for a minimum of 180 days, and a maximum of a year. You may be eligible for a temporary restricted license if your BAC was below .15. If it was above .15, you must wait 30 days or more before you will be eligible. If your BAC was above .1, or there was an accident involved, you will have to have an ignition interlock device installed, which will prevent you from starting the car until you are able to give a clean breath sample.

Additionally, you must submit to a “substance abuse evaluation” and take a course on drunk driving.


Deferred Judgment in Polk County for First Drunk Driving Charge

For a first OWI charge, you may be eligible for “deferred judgment.” Deferred judgments means that a final conviction is not entered and charges are dismissed if you comply with the rules set forth by the court. Iowa law allows a judge to give deferred judgment to a first OWI offender if there was not an accident that caused an injury in connection with the arrest, your BAC was below .15 and you did not refuse a DUI test.

Although the court can defer the judgment or sentence or suspend the sentence under Iowa Code § 907.3(1)(3), the court cannot grant a deferred judgment or sentence, or suspend the sentence, if the defendant has previously been convicted of an OWI offense or the defendant’s driving record shows:

  • one or more OWI-related license revocations within the past 12 years as provided in Iowa Code § 321.12(4);
  • the defendant’s alcohol concentration exceeded 0.15;
  • the defendant has previously received a deferred judgment or sentence;
  • the defendant refused a chemical test, or
  • the OWI offense resulted in bodily injury to a person other than the defendant. Iowa Code §§ 321J.2(3)(a), 907.3(1)(g), (2)(c), (3)(c).

For a deferral, you will be required to attend a court on drinking and driving. The course takes a substantial amount of time and costs a great deal, but you will avoid a conviction. You may also be required to pay the same fines, and have other conditions place on you. Deferred judgment is given at the discretion of the court. Your Des Moines drunk driving lawyer can argue why you deserve to have judgment deferred.

Of course, you will not have to face any kind of punishment if you are acquitted. It is ultimately your choice whether to fight the charges. At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., we will advocate for any decision you make. We can negotiate for deferred judgment, or we can challenge DUI test results and your arrest and seek freedom for you.


McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. | Polk County First DUI Attorney

If you are arrested for your first drunk driving charge, you may be inexperienced with the criminal courts, but we at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. are not — we have 40 years of legal experience for you to rely upon. Hire a skilled Des Moines first OWI lawyer from McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. to fight for you. Call us today at (515) 279-9700 for a free consultation.