Iowa Law

Summary of Iowa Alcohol Laws

(Please Note: This is a summary of laws, and does not constitute legal advice.)

Laws for Minors

1. Minimum Legal Drinking Age
        Persons must be 21 to consume alcohol.
2. Minor attempting to purchase alcohol/ Minor in Possession
    • 1st Violation: Simple Misdemeanor punishable by $100 fine;
    • 2nd Violation: Simple Misdemeanor punishable by $500 fine and a choice of a substance abuse evaluation or suspension of motor vehicle license for up to one year;
    • 3rd and subsequent violations: Simple Misdemeanor punishable by $500 fine, and suspension of license up to one year.
3. Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) for Minors/.02 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Violation
    License will be revoked for 60 days for a first .02 violation and 90 days for second and subsequent .02 violations. However, if a .02 violator refuses a test, the license revocation will be for 1 year. This is an administrative, not criminal, action. Violators are NOT eligible for a work permit.

Laws for Adults

    Whenever liquor, wine and beer are sold or the cost is recovered in any manner, a license is required. Selling liquor, wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages without a license is bootlegging and can be prosecuted as a serious misdemeanor.
2. Providing Alcohol to a Minor/Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
An adult, other than a licensee or agent, who sells, gives, or otherwise supplies alcohol to a minor, other than their own son/daughter, is in violation of state code, resulting in a serious misdemeanor and a minimum fine of $500.
If a person of legal age provides alcohol to a minor resulting in a serious injury of that minor, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.
If a person of legal age provides alcohol to a minor resulting in death, commits a class “D” felony.
3.Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)
As of July 1, 2003, the legal limit in Iowa is .08 blood alcohol content (BAC).
Criminal Penalties
- Deferred Judgment-available only for first offender who was not involved in a personal injury crash, who consented to the test and whose test result was less than .15 BAC.
- Jail/Prison and Fine Minimums
1st offense—48 hours jail/$1,000 (reductions in fine possible)
2nd offense—7 days jail/$1,500
3rd offense—30 days jail or commit to prison (5 years maximum)/$2,500
License Sanctions for OWI and Implied Consent
1st offense (defendant consented to test)—revocation for 180 days; work permit rules reliant upon BAC test level
1st offense (defendant refused a test)—revocation for 1 year, hard suspension of at least 90 days; no work permit until hard suspension has passed
2nd offense (defendant consented to test)—revocation for 1 year and hard suspension for 1 year
2nd or subsequent offense (defendant refused a test)—revocation for 2 years; hard suspension for 1 year; no work permit until hard suspension has passed
3rd or subsequent offense—sentencing court imposes 6-year revocation


Laws for Licensees

1. Age to be in Licensed Establishments
Law does not prohibit minors being in a licensed establishment. City and County Laws could enforce such policies, however.
2. Hours of Sale
The hours during which alcohol beverages maybe legally sold and served are: Monday through Saturday 6:00 AM to 2:00 AM, and Sunday 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM.
3. Criminal Penalties for Sales to Minors
Licensees (employees and agents) can receive a criminal penalty for selling, supplying, or giving an alcoholic beverage to a minor and charged in a criminal court.
Fines: $1500 for a licensee and/or $500 for the licensee’s employee or agent
Administrative Sanctions for Sales to Minors
Administrative sanctions are separate from criminal penalties. Both may be imposed. Administrative are automatic (no administrative hearing held) when there is a criminal conviction under Iowa Code. When there is no criminal conviction, administrative sanctions are imposed through an administrative hearing.
• 1st Violation or 1st Violation within two year--$500 civil penalty or 14-day license suspension
• 2nd Violation in two years—30 days license suspension and $1,500 civil penalty
• 3rd Violation in three years—60 license suspension and $1,500 civil penalty
• 4th violation in three years—revocation of license
4. Verification of Individual’s Age
Licensees are responsible for determining whether or not an individual is old enough to lawfully consume alcohol. When the licensee doubts the age of the buyer, the licensee should ask for identification before selling or serving the alcoholic beverage. If after checking the ID, the licensee still doubts, the sale should be refused.
Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Divisions recommends that licensees require valid identification, such as forms including a person’s photo and date of birth, such as on a driver’s license of state-issued ID card.
5. Misrepresenting Age
It is unlawful for minors to misrepresent their age for the purpose of purchasing and attempting to purchase alcohol. When licensees are charge with a sales-to-minor violation, a defense to the charge is available if:
• The minor who made the purchase misrepresented their age
• Licensees made reasonable inquiry ti determine if the purchaser was of legal age
6. Advertising
Licensees may advertise price and brand names of liquor, wine and beer in the following manner:
• Media (newspapers, radio, television, etc.).
• Inside signs (neon signs, mirrors, etc.).
• Outside signs (billboards, reader boards, etc.) which are not located on the licensed premises.
• Licensees may not advertise specific brand names on signs located on the outside of their licensed premises (in the parking lot, on the outside of the building, etc.).
Exception: Outside signs with specific brand names of liquor, wine and beer are legal when located in enclosed or partially enclosed areas (patio umbrellas with specific name brands in a fenced outdoor beer garden, etc.).
7. Confiscating Identification
When licensees (their employees and agents) reasonably believe that an ID card has been altered, falsified or belongs to another person and is being used as identification to purchase an alcoholic beverage, licensees may confiscate the license or card from the customer.
The confiscated ID must be turned over to the local police within 24 hours of confiscation. Licensees must file a written report about the circumstances at the time the license or card is given to the police authority. When licensees take possession of an ID, a receipt giving the time and hour of the confiscation must be given to the person from whom the ID was confiscated.
By turning the confiscated ID card over to police authorities and filing a written report as required by law, licensees cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for seizing the ID as long as unreasonable force was not used during the confiscation.
8. Sales to Intoxicated Persons
It is unlawful to sell or serve liquor, wine or beer to a person who is, or appears to be, intoxicated. The consequences that may occur if appropriate action if not taken are significant. Individuals who become intoxicated put themselves and others at risk of injury and harm. Licensees (their employees and agents) who sell or serve an alcoholic beverage to an intoxicated person must realize that their failure to intervene may indirectly injure or kill someone.
Licensees who sell or serve an alcoholic beverage to an intoxicated person are subject to criminal penalties. In addition, administrative proceedings may be initiated for suspension or revocation of the license. Licensees also may be held civilly liable under Iowa's Dram Shop Act for serving an alcoholic beverage to an intoxicated person who causes damage, injury or death of an innocent party. Licensees can minimize their risk by never serving an alcoholic beverage to a person who is or appears to be intoxicated.
9. Minimum Age Servers/Bartenders/Sellers
On-Premise servers, such as in a bar or restaurant, must be at least 18 years of age. Off-Premise sellers, such as in a convenient store, of beer and wine must be at least 16 years of age. Off Premise sellers of spirits must be at least 18 years of age.