If you’ve been convicted of a second OWI (Iowa’s DUI) offense in the last twelve years and are being charged with OWI now, this is your “OWI, third offense.” (By way of comparison, if you’ve had other OWI(s) before, but the convictions happened more than twelve years ago, you’re getting charged with first offense OWI again.)
People charged with third OWI offenses often have a number of other charges come up simultaneously, such as driving with a suspended license, that should be handled contemporaneously.
While the punishment for your first OWI may have been inconvenient and the punishment for your second OWI was likely pretty unpleasant, you’re in a lot of trouble by the time you get to your third OWI charge. You’re going to get a substance abuse evaluation, just like you did the last couple times you were charged, but at this point, your evaluator and the court are both going to be assessing your assessment pretty critically.
The state can commit you to a treatment facility if they decide it’s best. Your car can also be seized and forfeited to the state. (You did read that correctly — they can fine you and take your car this time. Permanently. If your car is seized and forfeited, you aren’t getting it back next week, next month, next year, or at all.)
What Counts as a Third DUI Offense?
Convictions that happened outside of Iowa count as prior convictions — even if the other state called the offense a DUI or DWI instead of an OWI.
This is your third offense if you’ve had an OWI second offense in the last 12 years, even if your first DUI was more than 12 years ago.
If you’ve previously gotten a deferred judgment on an OWI charge, that counts as a previous conviction for the purposes of determining whether this is your first, second, or third offense.
Offenses after your third are still charged as 3rd offense OWIs. Whether this is your third OWI or your seventh, it’s a D felony and the max sentences outlined apply — but do keep in mind that the more times you’re charged, the less willing a county attorney or a judge is likely to be to extend you favorable sentencing options.
Iowa OWI BAC
If you’re over 21, a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher means you’re over the legal limit (“and under arrest,” as the public service announcements will remind you.)
Underage Iowa BAC
If you’re under 21, a blood alcohol concentration of .02 or higher means you’re over the legal limit.
Third OWI for Drugs
There’s no threshold amount for drugs that constitutes “OWI.” Any detectable amount of a controlled substance in your system that you aren’t taking according to a doctor’s prescription is going to get you charged with OWI.
This means that if you drop a urine sample and their test comes up with marijuana metabolites, you are, according to the Iowa Code, operating under the influence. Yes, even though you can test positive up to a month (or more) after you last smoked. Yes, even though everyone in the room knows that if you last smoked a few weeks ago, you weren’t by any means “high” when you were driving. The law here isn’t necessarily fair or practical, but you may as well understand that arguing that just because you had THC in your system didn’t mean you were under the influence isn’t going to get you a lot of traction.
Penalties for OWI Third in Iowa
If you’re convicted of a third DUI offense, you’re getting a month in jail minimum. The judge can’t suspend this minimum sentence — that means you will actually be spending at least a month in jail if you’re convicted of a third OWI. Because this is a class “D” felony, you could spend up to five years in prison for it.
Fines and Community Service
They’re going to fine you $3,125 – $9,375 (plus a 35% surcharge.) They can give you community service hours instead of the fines, but do bear in mind that they charge (a comparatively much smaller amount) for community service hours placements too. Also keep in mind that those are big fines and that if the state asks for community service hours instead of a fine, you’re going to be doing a lot of community service hours. If you have difficulty keeping a job, though (and a third OWI conviction may well lose you your job), it might be worth considering asking the state about community service hours instead of some or all of your fine.
When you’re convicted of an OWI offense, the court will order you to pay restitution to any victims who you injured or whose property you damaged while you were driving drunk. (I’ve seen someone ordered to pay $5,000 to MidAmerican Energy for crashing into one of their — who knew electric poles cost so much?!)
Paying this restitution doesn’t mean that the victims can’t still sue you. If someone has a claim against you for damage you caused while you were driving drunk, they can still get an attorney and sue you in civil court.
The court can also direct you to pay restitution to a public agency (like fire fighters, police, or ambulances) for the cost of emergency response to your drunk driving or drugged driving. You can be directed to pay restitution to each agency that responded.
For second and third OWIs, the court can have a hearing and then decide to commit you to inpatient treatment for alcohol or drug addiction.
The court can decide up front how long you have to spend in treatment or they can ask that the hospital tell the court when you’ve gotten as much benefit from the treatment as possible.
The amount of time you spend in court-ordered treatment counts against your sentence and they can’t have you committed to treatment for longer than they could put you in prison, but since they can sentence you to as long as five years in prison for an OWI third, you could potentially spend a lot of time in treatment if you have substance abuse problems.
If you can’t afford treatment but are committed by the court, you’ll be considered a state patient and your treatment costs will be handled as provided in the Iowa Code.
If you’re convicted of a third DUI, they’re going to revoke your license for six years. (Have you even gotten your license back after they took it for your OWI 2nd?)
While you have no license, you will very probably be tempted to drive. It’s expensive and time-consuming to rely on other people for transportation, especially if you have kids and need to get them to school and you to work. Don’t do it. Driving while your license is suspended for OWI is a serious misdemeanor in itself, and if you have a certain number of offenses in a given time period, your license can end up barred so that getting caught driving will get you charged with the aggravated misdemeanor “driving while barred habitual offender.”
Before your license is reinstated, they’ll also want you to install an ignition interlock device and pay any fines and civil penalties that have been assessed.
Third OWI Resulting in Death
If your drunk driving caused a death, you can’t get a TRL for two years (and your licensed is still revoked for six years.) (And the OWI charge might well be facing more charges than just OWI.)
Temporary Restricted License and Ignition Interlock Device after Third DUI
If you want to apply for a “TRL” (temporary restricted license,) you’ll have to have an ignition interlock device installed.
Third OWI SR22 Insurance
After that year, to get your license back, you’re going to have to show proof of insurance. You’ll need SR22 insurance. Ask your insurance agent what amount of coverage is right for you.
Substance Abuse Evaluation and Treatment
You’ll have to do a substance abuse evaluation fairly early on in this process — long before conviction happens. Before you get your license back, you’ll have to complete whatever treatment your evaluator recommends.
The court can direct you to do inpatient treatment for drug or alcohol abuse if you’re convicted of a third DUI offense.
You’ll also be directed to complete a course for drinking drivers and “if available and appropriate,” a reality education substance abuse prevention program
Third OWI Lawyer in Des Moines
If you’re being charged with OWI and you have two or more prior convictions for OWI, DUI, or DWI, you can call at (515) 491 6128 to schedule an initial consultation so that we can go over your charges in detail and determine what your options are.
A third OWI in Iowa is a class D felony — a serious crime that could affect your ability to get or keep a job in the field that you want. It may well cost you more (in jail time, fines, and other consequences) not to have an attorney than it will cost you to retain counsel.
A third OWI is not a charge you want to face alone.
Iowa Drunk Driving Defense Attorney
We can help you figure out what to do about your OWI third offense in Des Moines, Polk County, Ankeny, Ames, Johnston, West Des Moines, Waukee, Saylorville, Bondurant, Altoona, Clive, Grimes, Pleasant Hill, Story County, Boone County, Marshall County, Dallas County, Jasper County, Madison County, Warren County, Marion County, Wapello County, Davis County, Ottumwa, Bloomfield, Iowa City, Council Bluffs, and the rest of Iowa.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. Reading this site doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship. If you want to talk to us about representing you when you’re charged with an Iowa DUI, please contact us at (515) 491 6128 and we’ll set up a time to talk.