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Iowa Supreme Court declines to add exception for OWI testing

DES MOINES — The Iowa Supreme Court has declined to expand the exception for suspending someone’s license for refusing to be tested for alcohol.

The ruling involves the case of Alex Westra, who was pulled over by a DOT motor vehicle enforcement officer on I-80 in Jasper County in 2017 after Westra stopped and looked as though he was going to illegally use a median crossover to turn around.

The officer saw an open container of alcohol in the pickup — but Westra refused to take and kind of chemical test. Westra was never charged with OWI but was charged with two traffic violations, and his driver’s license was suspended for refusing to take the chemical test.

The traffic violations were thrown out by the district court because DOT officers at the time did not have the authority to write them. Westra appealed the license suspension, saying the DOT officer did not have the authority to stop him.

The Iowa Supreme Court in its ruling issued Friday agreed the DOT officer did not have the authority — but says the only exception to the license suspension rule is if the officer was not justified in making the traffic stop. Westra did not appeal the officer’s justification and the Supreme Court ruled the license suspension should stand.


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