Kentucky DUI Laws and Penalties

How “driving under the influence” is defined and the penalties for a DUI conviction in Kentucky.

Kentucky's DUI laws prohibit a motorist from operating or being in physical control of a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater
  • while under the influence of alcohol, any controlled substance, or combination thereof which impairs the motorist's driving ability, or
  • with any amount of a listed controlled substance (like cocaine and methamphetamine) in the driver's system.

In other words, a driver can be convicted of a DUI based either on impairment or the amount of alcohol or drugs in his or her system.

Kentucky DUI Penalties

When a person is convicted of a DUI, the judge decides the appropriate penalties within certain guidelines. These guidelines are set by law and depend on the number of prior DUI offenses within the past ten years (out-of-state DUI convictions also count.)

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

48 hours to 30 days

7 days to 6 months

30 days to 12 months

Fines

$200 to $500

$350 to $500

$500 to $1,000

Aggravated DUI. If the driver had a BAC of .15% or greater, had a passenger under 12 years old, caused an injury accident, refused testing, or was excessively speeding, the judge will double the normal minimum jail time.

Treatment. All persons convicted of driving under the influence will be required to complete substance abuse treatment. This may require 90 days of meetings to one year of inpatient treatment, depending on the circumstances.

Driver's License Sanctions

A DUI offense will generally result in driver's license penalties, possibly even before the driver is convicted. The penalties depend on the number of prior offenses within the last ten years as well as any aggravating factors.

Pretrial suspension. If the driver refused testing, caused bodily injury, or has a prior DUI conviction, the court will seize and suspend the driver's license at the arraignment hearing. The driver's license will be suspended until the DUI charges are resolved. The court can also order the driver to enroll in the Kentucky Ignition Interlock Program (KIIP). A driver that is acquitted will receive their license back (unless otherwise suspended under Kentucky's implied consent laws).

Conviction. All DUI convictions are reported to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KTC), which will issue a notice of suspension to the driver. The driver's license will be suspended for:

  • six months for a first offense
  • 18 months for a second offense
  • 36 months for a third offense, and
  • 60 months for a fourth offense.

Any time served due to a pretrial suspension will be credited towards a conviction suspension period.

Implied Consent and Refusing a Chemical or Breath Test in Kentucky

Kentucky's "implied consent" law requires all drivers to submit to a breath or blood test if lawfully requested to do so by an officer. Such a request is lawful if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe a DUI occurred.

Even if the driver is acquitted of the DUI, the court can still suspend the driver's license if the prosecutor can prove he or she unlawfully refused testing. The driver's license suspension period is identical to that for a conviction.

The fact that the driver refused testing can also be used in court to prove culpability. And a test refusal (for a repeat DUI offense) will double the minimum jail period if the driver is convicted of the DUI charges.

Kentucky Ignition Interlock Program

Drivers who are suspended due to a DUI incident can apply to participate in the Kentucky Ignition Interlock Program (if not already ordered to by the court). The KIIP requires the person to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any driven vehicle but also allows the person to drive during the suspension period (as long as the vehicle has an IID).

Participants who comply with the IID requirements and avoid any violations (such as an IID test failure) can reduce their suspension time. Successful participants will serve only four months of suspension for a first offense, 12 months of suspension for a second offense, and 18 months of suspension for a third offense.

Underage DUI

Drivers who are under the age of 21 can be convicted of an underage DUI with a BAC of only .02%. However, this lower BAC conviction will not result in jail time. Instead, the driver's license will be revoked for 30 days to 6 months and the driver must complete a substance abuse program. The judge will also order either 20 hours of community service or a $100 to $500 fine.

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