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What is impairment in an Iowa OWI?


So what is an “alcohol impaired” driver again? According to NHTSA, a driver is “alcohol impaired” when “their blood alcohol concentrations are .08 g/dl or higher. This is equal to .08 g/100 mL blood, or 210 L breath, or 67 mL urine.

Yes, but what is impaired driving from sources other than alcohol? Impaired is a buzzword police and politicians use to describe the influence of narcotics or the influence of a combination of alcohol and narcotics. They assert this is a much bigger problem than the public realizes.

A motorist can present to Officer Friendly with no signs of alcohol intoxication and have the officer purport that a motorist is nevertheless “impaired” by narcotics or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Even if a motorist provides a preliminary breath test, or, PBT, below the presumptive level of intoxication, they can be detained, and, indeed, prosecuted for OWI, or, Operating While Under the Influence, in Iowa, if the prosecution can successfully convince a jury that:

1. The motorist’s reason or mental ability has been affected

2. The motorist’s judgment is impaired.

3. The motorist’s emotions are “visibly excited.”

4. The motorist has, to any extent, lost control of bodily actions or motions.

Iowa Model Criminal Jury Instruction 2500.5

In the absence of an actual scientific test result, this is fairly amorphous. So law enforcement officers will also use purported science and paramedicine to bolster the prosecution. They do this by using so-called ARIDE, or, Advanced Roadside Impairment Driving Enforcement or, more rarely, so-called Drug Recognition Expertise to suggest that they are experts at detecting impairment. Notice that they use the word “impairment” and “expert” in those acronyms. That's no accident.

The irony is that, in Iowa, you are considered impaired if you have any amount of controlled substance in your blood or urine, regardless of psychoactive effect. Thus, you are legally impaired regardless of whether you are medically impaired. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you are impaired and a urine test is properly requested and tests positive for any amount of controlled substance, a jury may conclude that you are impaired even if you show no signs of actual impairment.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for OWI, Operating While Under the Influence, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa county or community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC for a free initial consultation.

Remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to a lawyer over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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