People get arrested every day across the state of Iowa for operating while intoxicated (OWI). Officers often watch carefully for signs of impairment and then pull someone over if they swerve, drive in a strange or erratic manner or possibly if their tires graze the center line of the road.

During a traffic stop where an officer suspects impairment, they will typically ask you to perform a field sobriety test, which might involve answering a verbal quiz, walking in a straight line, standing on one foot or performing a gaze test.

If the officer sees any indication of impairment during this testing process, they will very likely ask you to perform a breath test. Some people choose to refuse that test, hoping that they will avoid OWI charges.

Refusing the test is a crime on its own

Iowa’s implied consent law creates penalties for any driver who refuses a breath test when an officer has probable cause to request it. Anyone who is driving on Iowa public roads has already agreed to consent to testing as part of the rules related to legally driving. Officers cannot compel you to submit to a breath test, but they can arrest you for refusing it.

The first time you refuse a chemical breath test, the penalty will be the suspension of your license for a full year, although you may be able to request a limited license for hardship reasons after 90 days. Refusing the test won’t necessarily prevent officers from testifying about your condition during a traffic stop or prosecutors from successfully bringing OWI charges against you. If you’re facing charges after an OWI stop, an experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance.