What should I do during an OWI traffic stop in Iowa?

by | Jan 6, 2021 | DUI/OWI

Drivers suspected of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) in Iowa face two legal actions. First, they face a criminal charge of OWI and, second, a civil case regarding their driver’s license.

The best advice is to never put yourself in a position to face these charges, but if you are suspected, it’s vital that you know what to do when those flashing lights appear in your rearview mirror.

Stay calm and don’t incriminate yourself

Being pulled over by a police officer can be a frightening experience regardless of the reason. However, if you are stopped, follow these actions:

  • As safely and quickly as possible, pull off to the side of the road
  • Turn off your vehicle, stay inside and put your hands on the steering wheel
  • Avoid making any sudden or suspicious movements when the officer approaches
  • Be polite to the officer
  • Refuse to answer any questions over whether you’ve been drinking, where you’ve been or who you’ve been with
  • You can decline to take a sobriety test, but that violates Iowa’s implied consent law, which can result in an automatic suspension of your license for one year regardless of whether you were legally drunk
  • If you are arrested, immediately request a lawyer
  • Take notes of all interactions with officers

OWI defense strategies

Working with an experienced OWI attorney is advisable as many defenses are available. Experienced lawyers understand how Iowa prosecutors handle these cases. Defenses include:

  • Improper stop: An officer must have probable cause to pull you over, such as speeding or other traffic violations or equipment malfunctions, such as a broken taillight.
  • Improper testing: Police officers must follow strict procedures for administering sobriety tests, and many fail to follow protocols.
  • Flawed breath test: Breathalyzers a notoriously inaccurate, and hundreds of thousands of cases have been thrown out of court due to faulty readings or improperly maintained devices.
  • Physical or medical conditions: Sobriety tests are inaccurate, in many cases, because drivers suffer from illnesses or disabilities or take medications that skew the results.
  • Officer errors: Police officers often violate a person’s rights by failing to inform them of Constitutional protections, violating rules of evidence or interrogating drivers without an attorney present.

Remaining calm and recording your interaction with police is helpful to your defense. Your attorney will aggressively challenge the evidence against you and work to reduce charges and penalties or have the case dismissed.