Federal law now authorizes temporary restricted licneses ("work permits") for second or subsequent DUI offenders following a 45 day hard suspension and the installation of an ignition interlock device.
The single biggest problem with the current drunk driving laws in the State of Iowa is the fact that second and subsequent offenders are not eligible for temporary restricted licenses or "work permits" for a minimum of one year following their offense. This means that they are not permitted to drive for ANY purpose for that entire year. If caught, the individual faces a Serious Misdemeanor which carries up to 1 year in prison and a minimum fine of $1,000 in addition to another suspension that must be the same as the period of suspension they were serving when they were caught. This additional suspension runs consecutively, is tacked on to the end, to the current suspension period. Proponents of this current system blindly believe that an intoxicated driver should not drive at all, regardless of the purpose because they previously put everyone at risk by their actions. It is strictly a theoretical, abstract, retribution based argument for the punishment that ignores the practical everyday consequences.
Operating While Intoxicated offenses carry the most significant mandatory minimum financial penalties of any criminal offense in the State of Iowa. For this reason, getting to and from work is even more important than it otherwise would be. Payment of fines and maintaining employment are standard conditions of probation and failure to abide by those conditions can land an individual in jail. In addition to this, almost every drunk driving "offender" must provide for themselves, and in many occasions, their families as well. Because of this, there is an increased number of unlicensed drivers on the roads simply because they need to get to and from work, but the current law does not provide them with any relief from their suspension, whether for hardship or to merely get too and from work. The truth is that people continue to drive illegally if it is necessary to provide for themselves and their families.
The socioeconomic problem that arises in this situation is that when an individual is convicted of a second or subsequent drunk driving offense, not only do they lose their driving privileges, they also lose their ability to register a motor vehicle in the State of Iowa. An unregistered vehicle with an unlicensed driver, likewise will not be insured. What this results in is unlicensed drivers driving illegally and without any insurance. The costs of the accidents caused by these drivers ultimately is born by the general public by way of increased insurance costs because the insured driver's insurance company ultimately ends up footing the bill. This is not in anyone's best interest.
Until recently, the excuses used by the Iowa Legislature for maintaining the one year hard suspension for second or subsequent DUI convictions was that federal law required such a suspension. We all know how the federal government puts pressure on the states to ensure that they comply with their greater wishes. Road money and other financial assistance from the federal government depends upon the states complying with federal minimum standards. That is precisely how the minimum alcohol concentration was lowered from .10 to .08. The federal government lowered their legal limit and required states to likewise comply within a specified period of time if they desired to keep their federal road monies.
The good news is that effective June 6, 2008, the federal government has made it possible for second and subsequent offenders to obtain restricted licenses so long as certain requirements are met. Pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 164 (a)(5), the minimum penalty for second or subsequent offenders is, among other things: (1) a drivers license suspension for not less than 1 year; OR (2) a combination of suspension of all driving privileges for the first 45 days of the suspension period followed by a restatement of limited driving privileges for the purpose of getting to and from work, school, or an alcohol treatment program if an ignition interlock device is installed on each of the motor vehicles owned or operated, or both by the individual. Thus, a second or subsequent offender, under federal law is eligible for a "work permit" so long as they install an ignition interlock in any vehicle owned or operated by that person.
This recent amendment alleviates many of the concerns and problems associated with a one year hard suspension while still adequately punishing the individual offender. Since a restricted license can be obtained, the vehicle will be registered, SR-22 (high risk) insurance will be required by the State, and the required ignition interlock device will ensure that the individual driving the vehicle has not consumed any amount of alcohol prior to driving. It really is a win-win situation. Now, it is up to each State to implement the new federal legislation and amend the state requirements accordingly. Please contact your local representative to urge immediate action on this issue. Their contact information can be found at: http://www.legis.state.ia.us/index.html