Getting behind the wheel of an automobile after having any amount of alcohol is never safe — or smart. Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs is a leading cause of serious and fatal accidents. In addition, if you drive drunk, you may be charged with the crime of DUI.
In Kentucky, if you are convicted on DUI charges, you may face a range of penalties, including a 120-day license suspension or even time in jail or prison. You can be charged with a DUI for drinking and driving, or even for driving under the influence of certain drugs, from controlled substances to prescription and over-the-counter medications.
If you have been charged with a DUI, you will need a top-notch DUI defense lawyer to represent you. At Baldani Law Group, our team of experienced Lexington DUI defense attorneys will aggressively defend you to protect your legal rights and freedom. From our law office in Lexington, we represent clients in Fayette County and throughout the region.
Understanding Kentucky’s DUI Laws
Kentucky’s New 2020 DUI Laws
In Kentucky, it is illegal to operate or have physical control of a motor vehicle while your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above a certain limit, or while under the influence of alcohol and/or any substance that impairs your ability to drive. BAC is determined through a chemical blood, breath, or urine test that is taken within 2 hours of when you last operated a vehicle. These tests can also detect the presence of other substances.
Under Kentucky Revised Statute § 189A.010, there are 6 ways that a person may be charged with a DUI. This includes operating a motor vehicle while:
- Having a BAC of .08% or higher (if over the age of 21);
- Impaired by alcohol;
- Under the influence of any other substance or combination of substances which impairs driving ability;
- Under the influence of a controlled substance;
- Under the influence of alcohol and any other substance that impairs driving ability;
- Having a BAC of .02% or higher (if under the age of 21).
In addition, if a person has a commercial driver’s license (CDL), they may be charged with a DUI if their BAC is .04% or higher while driving a commercial motor vehicle. Importantly, this law only applies when a person is operating a commercial motor vehicle, not when they are driving a passenger vehicle.
For purposes of this law, controlled substances include:
- Any Schedule I controlled substance except marijuana;
- Propoxyphene; and
There is not a legal limit for these drugs. Instead, if you are found to have one or more of these substances in your system, your chemical test results will be introduced at trial, along with testimony or other evidence of how your driving was impaired.
You may also be charged with a DUI if you drive under the influence of a prescription or over-the-counter medication if that drug (or combination of the drug with other substances) impairs your driving. Similarly, you can be charged with a DUI if you drive under the influence of marijuana. As with controlled substances, there is no legal limit for prescription or OTC medications, or for marijuana.
Consequences of a DUI Conviction
A DUI is a criminal charge. Among other things, this means that being convicted of a DUI can lead to serious criminal penalties, and will give you a criminal record. In addition, you may face collateral consequences if you are convicted of a DUI, such as increased car insurance premiums.
The specific penalty for a DUI is based on the facts of the case and whether you have any prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years (the “lookback period”). Generally, a DUI conviction may result in jail time, a license suspension, mandatory community service and rehab, and steep fines and fees. If there are facts that make the DUI more serious, known as aggravating circumstances, the penalties will increase.
For a first-time DUI conviction, you may be sentenced to between 48 hours and 30 days in county jail, and be required to pay a fine of between $200 and $500. If aggravating circumstances are present, then a judge is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 4 days in jail. A person who has been convicted of a DUI may ask the judge to impose community labor instead of jail time and/or a fine.
The penalties for a DUI increase significantly with each subsequent conviction within the lookback period. For a second offense, the fine increases to $350 to $500, and the range of potential jail time increases to 7 days to 6 months, with a minimum of 14 days for aggravating circumstances. In addition, a judge may order community labor on top of a fine and imprisonment, for anywhere from 10 days to 6 months.
For a third or greater offense, the potential consequences increase significantly:
- Third offense: a fine of between $500 and $1000 and a jail term of 30 days to 12 months. The judge may also sentence an individual to between 10 days and 12 months of community labor. The minimum jail term is 60 days if aggravating circumstances are present.
- Fourth or subsequent offense: charged as a Class D felony, a minimum fine of $1,500 and a minimum jail time of 120 days, or 240 days if aggravating circumstances are present.
In addition to criminal penalties, any Kentucky DUI conviction will result in a driver’s license suspension that ranges from 4 months to 60 months (5 years). The exact length of the suspension depends on the facts of the drunk driving charge:
- First offense: 4 to 6 months;
- Second offense: 12 to 18 months;
- Third offense: 18 to 36 months; and
- Fourth or greater offense: 30 to 60 months.
Anyone who is convicted of a DUI and loses their license as a result cannot have their driving privileges reinstated until they complete mandatory drug or alcohol education courses or a treatment program as required by law. However, under an update to Kentucky’s DUI laws, drivers may have the opportunity to continue to drive.
On July 1, 2020, a new DUI law went into effect that changed the consequences for Kentucky DUI convictions. Under this new law, ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are available to anyone who is convicted of drunk driving. IIDs are a type of breathalyzer that are installed on a vehicle. A driver must provide an alcohol-free breath sample in order to start the car, and then provide additional alcohol-free samples at random intervals to continue driving.
Under the previous law, only repeat offenders and people with particularly high BACs of .15% or higher were required to install IIDs. Now, anyone convicted of a DUI will be incentivized to have an IID installed. First-time offenders who choose to get an IID for a period of 4 months will retain their driving privileges with a limited license; if they refuse an IID, then their license will be suspended for 6 months.
If you choose to not have the IID installed, then your driver’s license will be suspended. Driving on a suspended license can lead to criminal charges:
- First offense: class B misdemeanor, license revocation for 6 months. If the person was driving under the influence at the time, then their license will be revoked for 1 year.
- Second offense: class A misdemeanor, license revocation for 1 year. If the person was driving under the influence at the time, then their license will be revoked for 2 years.
- Third or greater offense: class D felony, license revocation for 2 years. If the person was driving under the influence at the time, then their license will be revoked for 5 years.
In addition, the court may order jail time for a person convicted of driving with a suspended license after a DUI conviction.
What Are Aggravating Circumstances?
If you are convicted of a DUI in Kentucky, you may face enhanced penalties if a prosecutor can prove that aggravating circumstances were involved. In essence, aggravating circumstances include anything that made the crime worse, or more dangerous. Under Kentucky law, aggravating circumstances for a DUI include:
- Speeding more than thirty (30) miles per hour above the speed limit;
- Driving the wrong way on a limited-access highway;
- Causing an accident resulting in death or serious physical injury while driving under the influence;
- Having a particularly high BAC of 0.15 or higher;
- Refusing to submit to a chemical blood, breath or urine test as required by law; and
- Driving under the influence with a passenger under the age of twelve (12) years old.
If you drive in Kentucky, then you have impliedly consented to a blood, breath, or urine test if you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. This implied consent law means that if you are driving under the influence, refusing to submit to a chemical test will result in aggravating circumstances being applied to your case.
Kentucky’s implied consent law only applies to chemical tests after a DUI arrest. With some exceptions, you are not required to submit to a roadside breathalyzer test (preliminary or pre-arrest alcohol screening). Law enforcement officers may make it seem as though you don’t have a choice when it comes to taking a roadside breathalyzer test (or field sobriety tests), but in most cases, you have a right to refuse to submit to these tests.
Can I Fight a Kentucky DUI Charge?
There are a number of possible defenses to a Kentucky drunk driving charge. A seasoned Lexington DUI attorney can investigate the facts of your case to develop a strategy for fighting the criminal charges in your case. These defenses may be based on the facts of your case, and/or the law.
For example, if the officer who pulled you over on suspicion of a DUI did not have probable cause to do so, then your DUI lawyer may be able to have any evidence collected as a result of the illegal stop suppressed. This means that the prosecutor cannot use this evidence against you in court. If this happens, the charges against you may be dismissed.
Other possible defenses to DUI charges include:
- You were not actually intoxicated;
- A medical condition or other factor led to a false positive BAC result;
- The police did not comply with Kentucky law on taking chemical tests;
- The arresting officer did not follow proper procedure;
- Field sobriety tests do not accurately measure impairment;
- Bad driving does not mean that you were under the influence;
- Illegal DUI checkpoint;
- There are other reasons for signs of intoxication (like watery eyes from allergies); and/or
- The testing equipment was faulty.
The specific defense used by your criminal defense attorney will be based on the facts of your case.
While it is possible to represent yourself on a DUI — or any Kentucky criminal charge — the likelihood of a favorable outcome is increased when you have legal representation. Prosecutors may offer a deal in exchange for a guilty plea, yet these “deals” are often no better than what you would get if you were found guilty at trial. A criminal defense lawyer can find weaknesses in the state’s DUI case and negotiate a more favorable plea agreement — or even take your case to trial if necessary.
Arrested for a DUI? Contact Us Today.
Getting a DUI can be overwhelming. A conviction can lead to jail time, financial penalties, loss of your driving privileges, and other consequences, like paying higher insurance premiums and having trouble finding a job or even housing. At Baldani Law Group, we understand how difficult this process can be — and we are here to help.
For more than 30 years, our law firm has represented Kentuckians who have been charged with a range of crimes, including DUIs. We have significant trial experience and are highly skilled at negotiating the best possible deals for our clients. If you have been charged with a DUI, call today 866-867-1036, at or email us at any time to schedule a consultation with a Lexington DUI lawyer.