cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense

Should I seek a deferred judgment or the weekend program in a first time Iowa OWI case? 


by David A. Cmelik Law PLC


If and when the decision to seek an Iowa OWI (DUI) plea deal with the prosecution has been made, the facts on the ground will determine whether the defendant is qualified to seek a deferred judgment or simply seek the minimum jail sentence and fine.

No matter what, something should be clear; a plea agreement with the State of Iowa in an OWI (DUI) prosecution is an agreement to make a mere recommendation to the judge. The judge has the authority to accept the plea agreement and, without allowing the defendant to retract it, sentence the defendant to any penalty within the range of legally allowable punishment.

In an Iowa OWI first offense, the range of penalties is between 48 hours in jail and one year in jail. Lengthy penalties are rare but possible. For example, a longer sentence might be considered for a defendant who has had many lifetime OWI convictions that nevertheless fall outside the 12 year look-back to classify the offense as a first, second, or subsequent offense within that period. No defendant should assume that he or she will automatically receive the requested sentence in a joint recommendation pursuant to a plea agreement. 




Note that for first time offenders, a deferred judgment is available for those who do not refuse the Datamaster DMT test, who test below .15 grams ethanol per 210 L breath, and who were not in an accident where anyone but the driver sustained a bodily injury or worse. 


1450 Boyson Road Suite C-2A Hiawatha, Iowa 52233     319-389-1889


Note that for first time offenders, a deferred judgment option is available for those who do not refuse the Datamaster DMT test, who test below .15 grams ethanol per 210 L breath, and who were not in an accident where anyone but the defendant sustained a bodily injury or worse. A bodily injury could be a bruised forehead, a blood nose, or a cut. Essentially, if someone other than the OWI defendat received a minor injury or worse, a deferred judgment is off the table. 



The weekend program is a 48 hour “lock down” or “hotel school” option. In this jurisdiction, it is administered by Kirkwood Community College’s continuing education department. The school requires preregistration and the payment of a tuition fee. Once a student is registered, they show up on the weekend in question at 5 PM on a Friday, submit to a preliminary breath test, blow zeroes, and place their cell phone in a Tupperware container not to be returned to them until 5 PM on Sunday. There is no credit for time already served in the OWI weekend school/program. Jail time from the date of arrest is lost.


Course moderators teach the 12-hour drinker driver school during a participant’s waking hours. The 12-hour course should never be confused, however, with the 48 hour weekend program because the 12-hour program does not satisfy the requirement for the 48 hour weekend program if the judge authorizes the latter to substitute for the minimum jail sentence.


Not every case results in a guilty plea. However, most cases do settle out of court. If you or a loved one has been arrested for an Iowa OWI (DUI) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, Anamosa, Vinton, Linn, Johnson, Benton, Jones, or Benton counties, please contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889 or https://www.daclawfirm.com for a free initial consultation today.