Summary of Iowa Alcohol Laws
(Please Note: This is a summary of laws, and does not constitute
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
• 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
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
• 3rd Violation in three years—60 license suspension and $1,500
• 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.