The drinking age in Iowa is 21. Weed and other drugs are illegal for anyone. Learn about the consequences if you use or get caught.

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Can the school require a drug test?

Usually not. Iowa law does not allow schools to do urine tests of students unless they have reasonable suspicion that you have been doing drugs. Even then, the school has to be able to demonstrate that a urine test is likely to produce evidence that the particular student broke the law or a school rule.

In most of the rest of the country, middle or high school students who want to participate in extracurricular activities can randomly be tested for drugs even if there's no suspicion that they've been using drugs. But Iowa law specifically forbids that in public schools.

What can happen if I get caught drinking or have alcohol in my possession?

If you buy, or even attempt to buy, alcohol (including beer), you can be fined $100 or more. If someone buys or gives a minor alcohol, they can be punished with a fine of $500 or more.

At school, the consequences can vary, but often include suspension from classes, sports, and extracurricular activities. You might also be required to complete a substance abuse program. This can be regardless of whether you had the alcohol at school, at a school activity, at a party away from school, or even on a school trip in another country where minors drinking alcohol is legal.

What can happen if I get caught smoking weed or have it in my possession?

If you get caught at school, most likely you will get suspended. No matter where you were caught, you will also likely be charged by the police. Also, a drug arrest can become part of your permanent record and interfere with your opportunities in careers, scholarships, the military, or the government.

What can happen if I get caught using other drugs or have them in my possession?

Illegal drugs are not all punished the same. Some sentences are very mild; others are very harsh, depending on the drug, the situation, and your past record.

Even if you are not yet 18, with serious drug offenses, you may be tried as an adult. That means you might get an extremely harsh punishment, which could possibly include decades of prison time.

What happens if I get caught selling drugs to anyone, even just friends?

Selling drugs or having enough drugs to sell can result in harsh penalties. They vary depending on the quantity and the substance or drug involved. Possession of just 5 grams of meth, for example, could be punished with up to 25 years in prison.

If I’m younger than 21 and have been drinking just a little, what can happen if I get caught driving?

If you are under 21 and you’re caught with a blood-alcohol level of .02, you will lose your license for 60 days. Be aware that just one drink can result in a .02 blood alcohol reading, even though you are not feeling drunk.

What if I get caught driving and I'm actually drunk?

If you get stopped by police, you may be asked to take a breath test. You have the legal right to refuse.

However, if you refuse to take the test, you will be arrested. If you then also refuse to submit to an alcohol level test at the police station, you will lose your license for at least 180 days. However, keep in mind that if you have indeed been drinking, those penalties may be less harsh than the penalties you could get for submitting to an alcohol test that then proved you were legally drunk.

If you submit to the test and it shows you were driving drunk, first-offense drunk driving carries a penalty of a mandatory two days in jail with possible additional imprisonment of up to one year and a minimum fine of $1,200. You'll lose your license for at least a year. And you may have to pay restitution, lawyer fees, and court costs.

What happens if there’s a car accident and the driver or people in the car have been drinking or using drugs?

The driver, his or her parents, the owners of the car, and possibly even the passengers may be required to pay for the accident.

Juvenile delinquency or adult criminal charges against everyone in the car are likely. The driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle will be suspended, and if the driver is a student, he or she may be suspended from extracurricular activities.

What’s a “good conduct” rule?

Many school officials expect students who participate in extracurricular activities to "represent their school" in a positive way at all times. Under this legal theory, a student can be deprived of participating in all extracurricular activities if he or she violates a school rule—even if the conduct itself is perfectly legal, or takes place away from school or a school-sponsored event.

In fact, if your school has a rule that says that students cannot even be in the mere presence of alcohol or drugs, then you can be banned from extracurricular activities even though you did not get arrested, or consume or possess any alcohol or drugs. Your mere presence at a party with beer can get you removed from the team! Or an 18-year-old caught smoking away from school could be banned from prom, even though the student's conduct was perfectly legal.