DUI in Kentucky

What is a DUI in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is an abbreviation that refers to the crime of operating a vehicle while inebriated or intoxicated by alcohol or substances that can impair driving ability. These substances include illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. It also includes inhalants like spray paint, gasoline, glue, etc.

Kentucky treats driving under the influence as a serious criminal offense under the Kentucky Revised Statutes. If convicted by the Kentucky courts, an offender will face severe penalties, and the conviction will be included in the offender's Kentucky criminal record. These penalties range from mandatory drug or alcohol abuse treatment to jail time. Understanding the Kentucky DUI laws will help a person make better choices when driving after drinking or using intoxicating substances.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Kentucky?

The Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) do not make a distinction between a DUI and DWI. Like many other states, Kentucky lumps both offenses under the umbrella of and DUI. However, the primary difference is that DUI means driving under the influence, while DWI means operating while intoxicated.

Kentucky DUI Laws

KRS Chapter 189A serves as the primary DUI provision in Kentucky. Under 189A.010, a person is not to operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle in Kentucky in the following circumstances:

  • If the individual has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The alcohol concentration is measured by a reliable scientific test of a sample of the individual's breath, or blood was taken within two hours of when the individual stops the operation or physical control of a motor vehicle.
  • If the individual is under the influence of alcohol or any other substance or combination of substances that impairs the individual's driving ability
  • Situations where the individual is under the combined influence of alcohol and any substance that can impair driving ability
  • If the individual is below 21 and has an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or more, measured by a breath or blood sample taken within two hours of stopping the control of a motor vehicle

Under 189A.010(4), the fact that alcohol or any other inducing substance is legal is not a defense against a DUI charge. However, sometimes, the individual may consume the substance under a valid prescription from a qualified practitioner in professional practice. In such a situation, the defense is good, and the laboratory test for controlled substances, inadmissible.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet provides the penalties for traffic violations in Kentucky. It uses a point system to determine habitual negligent drivers. With every traffic offense a driver commits, the driver accumulates a point with severe consequences. When the points accumulate to 12, the Kentucky Transport Cabinet conducts a hearing to review the driver's driving privileges.

The hearing may lead to a license suspension or probation, and failure to show up for the hearing attracts a mandatory suspension, depending on the points accumulated. The cabinet may, after a hearing, make a driver attend an approved driver improvement clinic. Interested persons may check the cabinet's website for the recognized types of violations and the accruing points.

DUI Penalties in Kentucky

The penalties for a DUI in Kentucky depend on the severity of the offense and if it is a first or subsequent one. For a first violation, the applicable penalties under the Kentucky Revised Statutes are:

  • The individual must pay a fine not below $200 and no more than $500. Then, face an imprisonment term in the county jail for not a minimum of 48 hours or a maximum of 30 days, or both.
  • As an alternative to imprisonment, the individual may instead apply to the judge to enter a community program.
  • If there are aggravating circumstances like committing a DUI while transporting a child below 12, driving above the speed limit, etc., the applicable imprisonment term is a mandatory four days. The compulsory time is not subject to suspension, probation, conditional discharge, or any other form of early release.

For a driver below the age of 21 with an alcohol concentration of 0.02, 189A.010(6) stipulates a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum of $500, or 20 hours of community service in place of a fine. Yet, if the driver below 21 years has an alcohol concentration of 0.08, the person shall face the standard punishment. The prohibited substances that can attract a DUI charge include cocaine, diazepam, methadone, oxycodone, and others listed in 189A.010(12).

What Happens When You Get a DWI in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, there are no separate charges for a DWI. The reason is that the Kentucky Revised Statutes do not provide for such. Rather, the statutes and other traffic regulations in the state regard every violation that involves drinking under the influence or while intoxicated as a DUI.

As a result, the provisions of 189A.010 will apply to every individual that commits such violations in the state.

What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in Kentucky?

Under the Kentucky State Consent Law, every person that operates a vehicle in the state consents to tests for alcohol concentration or substances that impair driving ability. Such tests are breath, blood, or urine-based that an officer administers on reasonable suspicion of a violation. The tests must follow the administrative regulations of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, and the officer must observe the individuals for 20 minutes before carrying out the tests.

Refusal to submit to these tests results in an automatic suspension of driving privileges under 189A.105. The refusal may also serve as evidence against the individual in court. The individual may immediately apply for an ignition interlock license despite the license suspension. The license allows the individual to drive during the period of the suspension. If convicted, the individual will receive a credit towards any other ignition interlock requirements that may arise from the arrest.

Immediately after the breath, blood, or urine test, the individual may, within 15 minutes, contact an attorney to prepare for any possible defenses. Also, the individual may request a second test that a person the individual chooses will perform. The officer may then make an arrest when the results show proof of driving above the legal limit. If the arrested person shows a blood alcohol reading above 0.15, the officer shall hold the person in custody for four hours after the arrest, under 189A.110.

For a first offense and in addition to other penalties, the court may sentence the individual to an alcohol or substance abuse education or treatment program under 189A.040. The treatment period lasts 90 days, and the individual is to pay the cost, up to the ability of the individual to pay. After the individual completes the program, the administrator of the program will assess the person and submit a written report to the court.

The court may then order the release of the individual. Yet, a failure to complete this program or to pay the specified amount for education and treatment will result in contempt. In addition to other penalties for contempt, the court will reinstitute all prior suspended or delayed penalties put on hold to allow the individual to complete the treatment program.

Also, 189A.050 provides for a service fee payment of $425, in addition to other penalties. At the final sentence hearing, or within 45 days of the hearing, the individual must surrender all personal or joint license plates to the court. The clerk of the court transfers the impounded license plates to the Transportation Cabinet. However, the court may grant hardship exceptions to family members that the impoundment of these license plates affects.

The family members must first show that the inability to use those vehicles will result in untold hardship. If the court is satisfied with the testimony, it may order the clerk to return the license plates to the affected family members or other individuals. Operating a vehicle while the license suspension subsists without a functioning ignition interlock device is a Class B misdemeanor under 189A.090. It attracts a further six months license suspension.

What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in Kentucky?

A second DUI in Kentucky attracts a minimum fine of $350 which must not exceed $500. The individual also faces imprisonment in the county jail for a minimum of seven days and no more than six months.

In addition to these fines and terms of imprisonment, the individual also faces a community labor sentence for a minimum of ten days and no more than six months. If there are aggravating circumstances attached to the crime, the minimum imprisonment term is 14 days. The individual is not subject to a suspension of sentence, probation, conditional discharge, or any form of early release.

What Happens After a Third DUI in Kentucky?

For a third DUI, the individual faces a minimum fine of $500 and not more than $1000. The individual also faces an imprisonment term of not less than 30 days and not more than a year. Also, in addition to these fines and terms of imprisonment, the individual will face a minimum community labor sentence of 30 days or a maximum of one year. The presence of aggravating circumstances increases the imprisonment term to 60 days, and the term is not subject to probation, suspension, conditional discharge, or any other form of early release.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Kentucky?

Before 2016, the State of Kentucky had a five-year look-back period for DUI charges. The subsequent Senate Bill 56 has now extended the timeframe to 10 years. As a result, a DUI will now stay on a person's record for ten years instead of five.

The old law provided that two DUIs that are six years apart will count as first offenses. Under the new regulation, any DUI within ten years of the first one will count as a second one, with harsher punishments for violators. However, KRS 431.078 allows for the expunction of a first conviction.

DUI Expungement in Kentucky

Under KRS 431.078, an individual convicted of a misdemeanor traffic violation like a DUI may petition the court that handed down the conviction for an expunction of the record. The petition must come five years after completing the sentence or probation. With the new Senate Bill 56, the individual may have to wait out the ten years before filing for an expungement.

The court is responsible for setting a date for the hearing 30 days after filing the petition. The court will then notify the county attorney and victim of the crime if there was any. Then, the court shall consider the following factors at the hearing:

  • If the individual has no prior felony convictions
  • That the individual does not have a current felony, misdemeanor, or other pending proceedings
  • That the look-back period is clear of any other misdemeanor or violation offenses

Once the court pronounces an expunction order, the proceedings are looked at as though the charge never existed. The court and other relevant agencies may then delete or remove all records of the matter from the official computer systems.

The DUI records will no longer appear in background checks, and the individual need not disclose the expunged records for any application like employment or credit. Also, the individual shall pay a filing fee of $100, and the first $50 goes to a non-refundable trust and agency account for deputy clerks.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Kentucky?

Jail time is very likely for a first DUI in Kentucky, as the Kentucky DUI laws provide for it. The law stipulates that first-time offenders shall spend a minimum of 48 hours or up to 30 days in county jail. Also, with a blood-alcohol level of .15, the arresting officer has to detain the offender for four hours.

What is the Average Cost of DUI in Kentucky?

A DUI in Kentucky comes with a hefty price tag. Legal fees and other costs depend on several factors, like if it is a first DUI offense, if there were injuries or property damage, etc. Some attorneys may charge a flat rate, while others bill by the hour. On average, legal fees amount to $1500 or, sometimes, as high as $10,000. Law enforcement tows the vehicle to an impound lot upon arrest, and the towing and storage fees cost between $100 to $1000.

As a DUI is a driving-related offense, it appears on driving records which insurance companies have access to. The result is that a DUI convict may pay $100 more for car insurance. Court costs amount to about $134, and the education treatment program costs about $300 to $2500, depending on the duration of the classes. Then, the reinstatement of a suspended license costs $40 in licensing fees.

How Much is Bail for a DUI in Kentucky?

If the circumstances of a DUI in Kentucky demands that the individual stays booked in the local county jail, such an individual will pay bail to get out. The cost of bail for DUI offenses depends on the circumstances of the crime and aggravated situations. For example, if the individual resisted arrest, a minor in the vehicle, or an accident occurred, these aggravating circumstances can set bail between $500 to $5000.

How to Get My License Back After a DUI in Kentucky?

A person can get a suspended license for refusing to take a sobriety test or due to a court pronouncement. The individual has to pay a $40 reinstatement/re-licensing fee to restore driving privileges.

The payment goes to the Division of Driver Licensing Field Office, online or via mail, as the division does not accept cash. Affected individuals may also pay through a certified check or money order to the Kentucky State Treasurer.

To make the payment online, the driver must provide the following details:

  • The full name of the driver as it appears on the driver's license
  • The driver's license number which appears on the letter from the Division of Driver Licensing
  • Date of birth of the driver

The acceptable cards for online driver's license reinstatement payments are American Express, VISA, MasterCard, and Discover.

To reinstate a license for a DUI offense, the driver must first complete a state-approved alcohol education or treatment program. The State of Kentucky does not recognize driver's license suspensions that come from other states. So, if the license suspension did not arise from Kentucky, the individual must fulfill the requirements and pay fees to the state where the suspension originated.

How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in Kentucky?

Getting a DUI conviction in Kentucky is a life-altering experience. First, it may attract jail time, possible criminal prosecution, and the resulting disruption of a person's life. Under the Kentucky Revised Statutes, such an individual loses the ability to drive. Also, the person cannot join the military or get life insurance.

It also affects the possibility of getting certain professional licenses, and the individual may lose the one already had. The resulting criminal record can also limit a person's life opportunities. It can impact job prospects because most employers conduct background checks on prospective employees for felony and misdemeanor convictions.

However, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the discrimination of persons based on the presence of a criminal record unless there is a reasonable cause for it. The prospective employer must show that the conviction is relevant to the job if an employer refuses to employ a person due to a DUI conviction.

Can You Get Fired for a DUI in Kentucky?

Yes, a DUI conviction can cause a person job loss. The reason is that Kentucky is a state where employees work at will. So, an employer can fire an employee at any time and for no reason. The only exceptions are where the termination of employment was for discriminatory reasons, in violation of the employment contract, or even in retaliation for the exercise of employee rights. In these circumstances, grounds for wrongful termination may arise.

If the conviction will affect the ability of an employee to perform, the employer is well within the right to terminate the employment based on the DUI. For instance, in situations where the convict is a school bus driver with a DUI, the lives of school children will be put in danger. Most times, an employer may overlook a single DUI conviction, but having multiple DUI charges raises a red flag and highlights a destructive behavioral pattern.

An employee may, to circumvent this, show evidence of having learned a valuable life lesson from the conviction. The other alternative is to get the record expunged, to clear it from official records. However, this option is only available for first-time convicts that meet the official requirements.

How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Kentucky?

Kentucky laws permit DUI checkpoints or roadblocks. These are police traffic stops not tied to individual suspicions. Law enforcement officers use these checkpoints to check for intoxication or signs of impairment in motorists. The checkpoints are at random locations, temporary, and often spring up during festive seasons.

According to the CDC, these checkpoints can reduce the amount of alcohol-related crashes by 17%. It is not a legal requirement for the police to publish the locations of these checkpoints, but they sometimes do so in the newspapers or on social media. Four conditions determine if a DUI checkpoint is legal or not:

  • Supervisors and not field officers must decide on roadblocks' location, time, and place; otherwise, it is invalid.
  • The officers working the checkpoints must treat each driver the same and follow strict procedures, like stopping every 6th car.
  • The officers must not detain motorists for much longer than it takes to look for intoxication signs or check the motorist's license and registration.

Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?

In Kentucky, driving under the influence and driving with the influence means the same thing, so there is no judicial provision for which is worse. Instead, the state creates degrees of DUI offenses and the corresponding gravity of the offense.

For instance, Kentucky's first, second, and third DUI is a misdemeanor traffic offense. Anything from a fourth DUI upwards is a felony. So, the number of arrests and convictions determines which degree of offense is more severe. Specific factors that can make a DUI aggravated or more severe include:

  • If the driver was driving over the speed limit
  • If the driver has a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher
  • A serious crash or fatal injury resulting from the DUI
  • Refusal of the driver to submit to mandatory chemical tests