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Governor signs new OWI restrictive license and interlock law


On April 11, 2018, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law House File 2338, “an act relating to temporary restricted licenses for operating while intoxicated offenders, providing penalties, and including applicability provisions.” The law will take effect July 1, 2018.

The legislation amends Iowa Code Chapter 321J, Iowa’s drunk driving statute, to impose new ignition interlock restrictions on all OWI offenders, to require ignition interlock providers to install GPS, digital imaging, and report-back technology capable of photographing and reporting offenders in real time who substitute sober drivers for the offenders themselves. It applies to all OWI offenders in Iowa—not just those who test over .10 g ETOH/210 L breath with an accident, for example, or over .15 g ETOH/210 L breath. In the past, some OWI offenders who chose not to obtain a temporary restrictive license avoided the requirement that they install an ignition interlock device. They just parked their cars and went without a TRL and, thus, had no such ignition interlock requirement. First time offenders who provided evidentiary chemical tests below .10 g ETOH/210 L breath were exempt from ignition interlock requirements even when seeking a temporary restrictive license. They will have to install ignition interlock devices regardless of whether they seek a temporary restrictive license now.

Periods of ineligibility for a temporary restricted license have also been eliminated. For example, in the past, a first time offender who refused to submit to OWI evidentiary chemical testing was ineligible for 45 days. Someone who was arrested for OWI following an accident and who tested over .10 g ETOH/210 L breath or who tested over .15 g ETOH/210 L breath was ineligible for 30 days. In the past, third or subsequent OWI offenders were ineligible to obtain a temporary restrictive license for one year. Those periods of ineligibility have been stricken from the code. After July 1, 2018, temporary restrictive licenses will be immediately available to those under OWI revocation.

The law also lifts restrictions on the purpose of driving under a temporary restrictive license. Previously, a temporary restrictive license could be granted for work, treatment, or school. Most other automobile uses were forbidden. For example, temporary restrictive licenses in the past forbade driving for pleasure, e.g., to drive to the swimming pool or the mall. Temporary restrictive licensees had to submit to the Iowa DOT a route to and from work for approval, including a supervisor’s signature.

For first time offenders who provide low tests or those who would not seek a temporary restrictive license in favor of a bicycle during their revocation, the changes are onerous and perhaps unnecessary and expensive. The law imposes an ignition interlock requirement on them where none previously existed. This is counter intuitive.

That's because federal highway commission and special interest groups who advocate for tougher drunk driving laws acknowledge that low test, first time offenders are least likely to offend again—and that the real problem isn’t social drinkers but high test alcohol abusers and repeat offenders unwilling or unable to change their drunk driving behavior in the face of prosecution and social opprobrium. For other offenders with a low risk to reoffend—those who were previously not required to install an ignition interlock device— the new ignition interlock requirement will be an unnecessary expense.

For first time offenders who provide test results over .10 g ETOH/210 L breath and get arrested following an accident, or, in the alternative, test over .15 g ETOH/210 L breath, the period of ineligibility is gone and they can immediately apply for a temporary restrictive license after July 1. This is a benefit for such offenders who wish to remain mobile without interruption.

For all temporary restrictive licensees, lifting the restrictions on the purpose of driving is a blessing. To avoid criminal liability in the past, many chose to have relatives go shopping for necessities-- or simply drove while revoked, a violation of Iowa Code 321J.21 punishable by at least $1,000 fine and an additional like period of revocation. After that restriction is lifted, OWI offenders can do those things themselves, remain independent, sober, and productive.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for OWI in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC for a free initial consultation. Let us help you chart your way back to life before this legal crisis.

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