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OWI (DUI) In Iowa:

is it all downhill from here?  

​by David Cmelik
Many first-time OWI defendants want to get the ordeal over with the night after an arrest. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the beaten down mentality. After an evening of watch my finger, walk this line, and blow into this kazoo, I get it. An OWI defendant in Iowa is repeatedly told during an arrest that an officer suspects intoxication, that a battery of field sobriety tests have convinced the officer that the defendant is intoxicated, and that a later test result, if provided by consent, after the defendant has been seized, will be used against them to prove that the defendant is, indeed, too intoxicated to have been operating a motor vehicle. Even if the Defendant refuses, the refusal will be used against him or her. Most defendants don’t understand that they impliedly consented to providing a breath test upon request when they became licensed to drive—and that they could later lose their privilege even longer if they refused a breath test when “offered” by a law enforcement officer during an Iowa traffic stop. Heads spin when they realize that they are damned if they do—and even if they don’t. So, yes, I get the defeatism. But all is not lost. Even the most stubborn willed people lose some will to challenge an OWI arrest in court after a night in the drunk tank to think it all over. But if an OWI defendant has taken the time to seek out and hire an attorney, they should leave the fatigue and the anxiety of the arrest and put it on the lawyer’s shoulders. First, it could take weeks or months to resolve the case—that’s not a bad thing if an OWI defendant is out of jail. Time is a criminal defendant’s friend unless they are jailed. Time to prepare. Time to sift over and review evidence. Time to scrutinize video recordings. Time to make it their lawyer’s job. Time to recover from the ordeal and let the dust settle. After I am hired to examine the purported evidence against an OWI defendant, I often tell my client, “You’ve done everything you can do today to get through this. It’s for your lawyer to sift through the evidence now.” Tomorrow, I tell my clients, it’s time for you to get a substance abuse evaluation and comply with the treatment recommendations—usually a condition of pretrial release. But today, hiring an attorney is enough. It’s all anyone can do after an ordeal like an OWI arrest. In six months, the average defendant will see a first time OWI arrest not as a minor hassle, to be clear, but something that is recoverable and manageable. Remember, however, that no blog is a substitute for actual representation by a competent attorney. 

cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense