Iowa Alcohol Laws
Where to Buy Alcohol
State-owned package stores, sometimes called ABC stores, are the only place to buy hard liquor in Iowa. Beer and wine are sold in retail stores. Both kinds of stores are permitted to sell alcohol from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays.
Legal Age for Drinking/Serving Alcohol
You must be 21 years of age to drink alcohol in Iowa, but you can work as a server in a restaurant, as a bartender, or in a state-owned package store at age 18. You can be 16 and sell alcohol in any other situation.
Open Container Laws
Previously opened containers of alcohol must be transported in the car’s trunk so that the driver and passengers do not have access.
The maximum allowable blood-alcohol content (BAC) for a driver in Iowa is .08 percent. Over this amount, a driver is considered ‘per se intoxicated’ and can be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence).
Drivers under the age of 21 may legally have only a .02 percent BAC level. Above this, the underage driver is subject to DUI penalties.
At .15 percent or more over the legal .08 percent BAC limit, a driver may receive significantly harsher punishment. Harsher penalties also apply to drivers refusing to submit to chemical testing for intoxication levels.
‘Implied consent laws’ require drivers suspected of DUI to comply with breath, blood, or urine testing for intoxication. Refusal can mean mandatory suspension of the driver’s license for up to one year.
DUI conviction may mean suspension of the driver’s license by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). For the first conviction mandatory suspension is 180 days; for the second offense, one year; for the third offense, two years.
In Iowa, vehicle confiscation is not a penalty option for the courts, but attachment of an ignition interlock device is a possibility. At the driver’s expense, this device requires the driver to perform a breath-test before the vehicle will start.
Mandatory alcohol education can be required for DUI offenders. This step is often suggested instead of serving a sentence of incarceration or paying fines.
DUI is considered a felony after the third conviction.