It’s my first OWI and I took a breath test – so why are they taking my license for a year?

Under most circumstances when someone is arrested for a first offense OWI and agrees to take a breath test, they are given notice that they’ll lose their license for six months.  But when that person has an .02 violation on their driving record, the Iowa Department of Transportation considers you a second offense for licensing purposes.  In this post I want to address some of the questions that the .02 violation creates for drivers and OWI/DUI Defendants.

Let’s say you are driving through Iowa City or Coralville trying your best to dodge the traffic after a Hawkeye basketball game, and you have an unfortunate run in with a Johnson Count Sheriff’s Deputy.  You are asked to give a breath test and the deputy revokes your license (or non-resident operating privileges) for a predetermined time period specified by the Iowa DOT.  In Iowa, a person charged with drunk driving faces the following consequences:

If you provide a specimen of breath:
• 1st offense 180 days
• 2nd offense 1 year
• 2nd or subsequent 1 year

If you refuse to provide a specimen of breath
• 1st offense 1 year
• 2nd offense 2 years
• 2nd or subsequent 2 years

But occasionally I meet with people who have not previously been charged with operating while intoxicated, however, the DOT is still treating their test as a second offense. They usually don’t understand why they are subject to a harsher penalty.The culprit is usually a “zero tolerance” or “.02 violation” on their driving record.

The .02 violation adopted by the Iowa Legislature is aimed at individuals under the age of 21 who operate a motor vehicle and are stopped by the police and take a breath test with a result that ranges from .02 to .08. Prosecutors offices rarely file an OWI or DUI charge in connection with the incident, so there is no criminal offense. However, the Iowa DOT can take a person’s license for a period of 60 days. For the next twelve years the “.02” violation subjects the driver to an enhancement if another test failure or refusal occurs.

In short the laws under Iowa Code 321J encompass “.02” violations. This law can have dire consequences on a person license. An example from my practice was of a young man received an .02 violation at the age of 17. Eleven years later he received a revocation for operating while intoxicated. His youthful indiscretion from eleven years earlier coupled with the revocation for operating while intoxicated resulted in a year long loss of license. To make matters worse the defendant was not eligible for a work permit under current Iowa Law. The young man faced termination from his employment as a drivers license or work permit was mandatory.

If you find yourself charged with operating while intoxicated and have had a prior “.02” violation it is important to seek legal representation. A thorough analysis of a defendant’s case can yield suppression issues.  If a breath test is suppressed it is possible that the DOT will only revoke your license for 90 days with a permit available for at least a portion of that time.

No one operating while intoxicated case is the same. It is important to seek a competent defense lawyer who understand the criminal and drivers license administrative issues. J. Dean Keegan and Thomas D. Farnsworth offer free consultations to inform the accused of potential issues in their case. This blog is not intended as legal advice. If you find yourself in a similar situation to the blog article above please contact Attorney J. Dean Keegan or Thomas D. S. Farnsworth at our  Iowa City or  Cedar Rapids office for a free consultation.


About keeganlegal

Criminal Defense Attorney
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