In general, state laws prohibit:
- Consuming, possessing or purchasing an alcoholic beverage if you are under 21 (Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age or “PAULA”)
- Consuming or possessing an alcoholic beverage in a public place
- Possessing an open or unsealed container in a motor vehicle (when the container is within the immediate reach of the driver)
- Possession of an open or unsealed alcoholic beverage by a passenger in the passenger area of a motor vehicle (Exceptions apply to taxis, limousines and motor homes)
- Public intoxication
- Giving or selling an alcoholic beverage to someone under age 21
- Giving or selling an alcoholic beverage to anyone who is intoxicated
- Lending your driver’s license to someone or knowingly permitting someone else to use it
Each of the above violations is a simple misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment, a fine of at least fifty dollars but not more than five hundred dollars, or both. For certain offenses, mandatory fines and periods of driver’s license suspension apply.
Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age (PAULA):
First offense – Simple misdemeanor punishable by a $200.00 fine plus court costs and surcharge.
Second offense – Simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500.00 plus court costs and surcharge. The violator must choose to either complete a substance abuse evaluation or have their driver’s license suspended for up to one year. A court appearance is required for second and subsequent offenses. During this court appearance, the judge can use discretion in determining sentencing.
Third (and subsequent) offenses -Simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500.00 plus court costs, surcharge AND driver’s license suspension for up to one year. A court appearance is required for second and subsequent offenses. During this court appearance, the judge can use discretion in determining sentencing.
Anyone under the age of 21 who alters, displays or possesses a fictitious or fraudulently altered license and uses it to purchase alcohol can lose their driver’s license for up to 6 months. This offense is also a simple misdemeanor.
Social Hosts: Providing Alcohol to a Minor
An individual over age 21 who gives, sells or supplies an alcoholic beverage to a person under the legal age commits a serious misdemeanor and is subject to a fine of between $200 and $1500 and may also be sentenced to up to one year of jail time. If injury results from the actions of an intoxicated minor, the individual who provided the alcohol commits an aggravated misdemeanor and is subject to two years imprisonment and a fine of between $500 and $5000. If death results from having furnished alcohol, the offense is a Class D felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)
Under state law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This means driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater or driving while under the influence of another drug, such as marijuana or certain prescription medications.
A person convicted of a first offense OWI can be fined up to $1,250 and can be placed in county jail for up to one year. However, at the court’s discretion, up to $625 of this fine may be waived if there was no personal injury or property damage. The minimum jail time is 48 hours. For a second offense, the individual will be confined for a minimum of seven days and fined not less than $1,875 and not more than $6,250 For a third or subsequent OWI conviction (a Class D Felony), the individual will be imprisoned between thirty days and five years and will be assessed a fine of not less than $3,125 and not more than $9,375.
In addition to fines and jail time, those convicted for OWI forfeit their driving privileges for a minimum of 180 days (The revocation period is even greater if the individual refuses the blood alcohol test OR has previous OWI convictions.) In the past, OWI violators could obtain work or school permits even though their license had been revoked. With recent legislative changes, there is now a “hard suspension” period, during which time, no temporary licenses are granted. After the hard suspension period has passed, a work or school permit will only be granted after an ignition interlock device is installed on each of the person’s vehicles. This device connects to an automobile’s ignition system and prevents the vehicle from being started if the intended driver has been drinking.
Retail Outlets/Liquor Licensees
If an employee of a licensed liquor establishment or an alcohol retail outlet serves a minor, the employee and the establishment are each fined $1500. This penalty applies to anyone who knowingly or by failing to exercise reasonable care, provided alcohol to a minor.
*To learn more information about Iowa’s Alcohol and other Drug Laws, please click: here.
In the “Iowa Code Quick Search” field, type in “124” for Controlled Substances, “123” for Alcohol laws, or “321J” for drunk driving laws, and then click “Go” for complete listings.