DAC-LAW PLC - Cedar Rapids OWI-DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyer

305 2nd Avenue Suite 200

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401


Assumptions like it or not, the judge and the law assume that someone arrested for an OWI in Iowa may need treatment. Therefore, judges typically order as a condition of pretrial release that the defendant obtain a substance abuse evaluation from an accredited provider upon release. Under Iowa law, an OWI defendant may not be sentenced unless and until they obtain a substance abuse evaluation. Any order pursuant to a plea agreement, for example, will inevitably also include an order to complete the treatment originally recommended in the required evaluation. ​ If you or a loved one has been arrested for a Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or Waterloo OWI, or, Operating While Intoxicated, contact DAC-LAW PLC, today for an initial consultation at 319-389-4276. 

Cedar Rapids OWI (DUI) Best Options Series: do I have to get a substance abuse evaluation?


This is the sixth in a series of blogs regarding a Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community OWI (DUI) defendant’s best options during a criminal prosecution for drunk driving. 

Short answer: yes. A substance abuse evaluation is typically a condition of pretrial release. In other words, the “bargain” you may not realize you struck with the judge is that in exchange for your release—generally release on recognizance on a first offense—is that you get a substance abuse evaluation immediately after your release and provide to the clerk (through your lawyer) proof of same.

Most evaluators indicate to the court the level of treatment recommended. Once the case is completed, given that over ninety percent of all drunk driving prosecutions result in some kind of plea agreement, the judge will order the defendant’s completion of that recommended treatment.

There is a temptation to go to your “friend’s” evaluator, if that friend or coworker was told they “didn’t need treatment,” even if you know said friend has a very educated liver.  

Some evaluators philosophically oppose coercive treatment and point out that a single interaction with law enforcement, either as the result of an OWI or marijuana possession arrest, is not cause to diagnose the defendant with a substance abuse disorder. This is above my paygrade and beyond my field of expertise; I'm a lawyer not a clinician.

But it would be a legal mistake to think that everyone who goes to a particular evaluator will get the same “no treatment” recommendation. More importantly for an OWI defendant, it would be the wrong approach to mitigation if the case should result in a sentencing where the prosecutor and judge believe the defendant is seeking a lenient treatment recommendation. Prosecutors don’t need to accept lenient recommendations and may urge a second opinion before further plea negotiations can continue. Judges may be equally suspect of a no-treatment recommendation if the defendant has had more than one alcohol or drug related scrape with the law.

In those cases where leniency is sought, it’s a good idea to seek an immediate evaluation and follow through with any treatment recommendations. That way the defendant can possibly present a “gold star diploma” indicating that they have completed treatment even before a case is complete.

The evaluation is required by Iowa law. A licensed attorney practicing exclusively in the area of criminal defense may have more ideas about the best approach to your individual case. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for an Iowa OWI (DUI), contact DAC-LAW PLC at 319-389-4276 or


for an initial consultation today. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.