Iowa Alcohol Laws: They Might Surprise You – Discover More

Iowa alcohol laws govern all alcoholic beverages in the state. The most important laws for most people are those about drinking.

Carry Nation made history here with her hatchet. The state was very pro-prohibition. But today Iowa alcohol laws are very mainstream.

I. Minimum Ages

I.   Minimum Ages
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  Get Professional Advice

Many young people would like to work part-time. There are many jobs in hospitality. What is the minimum age age for serving alcohol in a restaurant? How about for being a bartender? And what is the age for selling alcohol for consumption off-premises?

Iowa alcohol laws permit adults to serve alcohol in venues for on-premises consumption. An adult is anyone at least 18 years of age.

Adults may also  work as bartenders. And they may work selling spirits for off-site consumption. Persons 16 years or older may sell beer and wine for drinking elsewhere.

iowa alcohol lawsThe age distinction between selling spirits and selling beer and wine comes from a myth. That’s the belief that spirits are more alcoholic than beer or wine. But standard servings of beer, wine and spirits have the same amount of alcohol. Each has 0.7 ounce of pure alcohol, They’re all equal alcohol-wise.

Those of any age under 21 may drink in a home if a parent or guardian is present.

It is legal for those under 21 to be in licensed establishments. However, localities may have ordinances making it locally illegal.

It is a criminal act to use a false ID to buy alcohol. Retailers may seize IDs that appear to be false. Conviction for using such an ID may result in driver license suspension.

It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC higher than 0.02.

II. Alcohol Violations

Iowa’s drinking laws prohibit anyone of any age from consuming in public. Any non-adult (anyone age 17 or under) convicted can have their driver’s license revoked. Note that the offense is drinking, not intoxication.

Alcohol Sales

Licensed businesses beverages may sell and serve alcohol 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday  On Sundays the hours are 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The hours during which alcoholic beverages may be legally delivered to locations off the licensed premises are different. They are Monday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Sundays the hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Only state government monopoly stores may sell distilled spirits. That’s whiskey, rum, tequila, scotch, bourbon, gin, vodka, etc.

It is against the law for an alcohol seller to provide alcoholic beverage to anyone under age 21. The fine is $1,500 if committed by the alcohol license holder (licensee). If an employee sold the alcohol, the fine is

Here are the penalties for a licensees who sell alcohol to anyone under 21.

For a first violation the penalty is a $500 fine or a 14 day license suspension of the alcohol license. A second violation within two years brings a 30 day license suspension and a fine of $1,500.

If a third violation occurs within three years the punishment is a 60-day license suspension and a $1,500 fine. A fourth violation brings a permanent revocation of the alcohol license.

Alcohol sellers may legally confiscate what they believe to be false IDs. They must provide a receipt for the suspicious documents. Then they must submit the suspicious IDs to law enforcement authorities.

Alcohol Purchases

iowa alcohol lawsIt’s illegal for adults aged 18 through 20 to buy or attempt to buy alcohol. The first violation is punished with a fine of $100. A second carries a fine of $500. In addition, the violator must choose between two punishments. One is a substance abuse evaluation. The other is a driver’s license suspension for up to one year.

For a third or subsequent violation the fine is $500. The state revokes the license for up to one year. A juvenile court handles the matter if the violation was by a non-adult.


Alcohol Testing

iowa alcohol lawsIowa’s drinking laws requires drivers to submit to alcohol testing if requested by police. Everyone has the Constitutional right to refuse. The specific right is that against self-incrimination. But the penalty for exercising that right is a is license revocation for one year.

However, drivers who take the test and are over 0.08 have their licenses revoked for 180 days. That’s about six months or half the penalty for using their right. (On the other hand, if a personal injury occurred, the state revokes the license for one year.)

Note that these penalties do not apply to refusing to submit to a field sobriety test. These tests are notoriously subjective and unreliable. For example, about one-third of people with a BAC of o.oo fail them.

Field sobriety tests are not only useless, they’re harmful say lawyers. They advise clients never to take one. Their recommendation is to politely refuse. Learn much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.


iowa alcohol lawsIowa alcohol laws prohibits anyone from boating with a BAC of 0.08% or higher (BWI).

For a first conviction, people may be fined up to $1,000. The penalty may include at least two days in jail, and revocation of the boating license for one year.

Upon a second conviction, people may be fined up to $5,000. They may go to jail for at least seven days. Finally, the state may revoke their operator’s license for two years.

iowa alcohol lawsFor a third and subsequent conviction, people face a fine of up to $7,500. The state may imprison them for up to one year. It may also revoke their license for six years.

In addition, those convicted of BWI must take substance abuse evaluation and treatment. They must also take a course for drinking drivers.

The state adds severe penalties in addition to these if the BWI causes injury or death.

Alcohol Testing

Iowa’s alcohol law requires boaters to submit to police requests for alcohol testing. People who use their Constitutional right to decline are fined up to $500. In addition, the state revokes the boating license for up to one year.

III. Resources for Iowa Alcohol Laws

Iowa alcohol lawsIowa State Code
Administrative rules
Legislative Information
Supreme Court Opinions
Court of Appeals Opinions
Attorney General Opinions
Beverages Division
Iowa State Bar Association

IV. Get Professional Advice

Iowa alcohol laws can be hard to understand. It’s the same in other states. Laws can change. Their interpretation can change. They can conflict. Lawyers  go to law school for years. Do not rely on this site. And be aware. Friends may give opinions. Neighbors may give ideas. Kin may give advice. Co-workers may give their stories. What they give is worth about what you paid. Worse, it may be wrong.

iowa alcohol lawsGet information and advice about Iowa alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer who holds a license in the state. However, local alcohol attitudes and enforcement practices exist across the state. Therefore, it’s wise to choose a lawyer very familiar with your locality.