• David A. Cmelik Law PLC

Is OWI drunk driver class also treatment?


You will need your gold star diploma for both substance abuse treatment and drinker driver class for both the Iowa DOT and the Clerk of Court. Make sure you understand what you must do so you do not register for classes that are unnecessary or duplicative.

No. First, I am not a certified substance abuse counselor. I am an attorney. But one thing I do know is that the court expects defendants in a Cedar Rapids or Iowa City drunk driving prosecution, or Operating While Intoxicated, case to obtain a substance abuse evaluation within a certain amount of time after initial appearance before the magistrate. Typically, in a Linn County OWI case, it is usually within 30 days of initial appearance or release. In a Johnson County OWI case, orders tend to instruct defendants to at least make an appointment for a substance abuse evaluation within 10 days of initial appearance or release.

From my experience, the judge is instructing defendants to obtain an evaluation to determine an individual need for substance abuse treatment. Providers are approved by both the Iowa Department of Human Services and the Department of Education.


The drinker driver school requirement comes later and may be satisfied with a jail diversion program that includes the class. The 12 hour drinker driver class is a one-size-fits-all statutory requirement to satisfy the court’s instructions in any dispositional order other than an outright dismissal or jury acquittal. In other words, if you are sentenced in an OWI, the judge is going to order you to enroll in and complete Iowa’s 12-hour drinker driver class in addition to completing any treatment recommended by a substance abuse evaluation required at the beginning of the case.

For those who seek to substitute a 48 hour weekend program for the mandatory minimum jail sentence or as a condition of probation in a deferred judgment, the 12 hour drinker driver class is included in the 48. If you prematurely take it now before your case is over, you might have to do it again as part of the 48 hour weekend program.


In my experience, none of these things are the same thing. You must obtain a substance abuse evaluation. You should wait to find out what the judge orders you to do before you enroll in and complete the 12 hour or 48 hour weekend programs.


Once your case is over, to reinstate your privilege to operate a motor vehicle, you will have to provide a copy of your 12-hour drinker driver class certificate to the Iowa DOT, as well. Your provider will also have to e-file with both the Iowa DOT and the Clerk of Court your certificate of completion for any substance abuse treatment.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for Operating While Intoxicated, Iowa’s version of drunk driving sometimes called DUI in other states, contact us for a free initial consultation.

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