Kentucky Drunk Driving Laws

Even though Kentucky is famous for its bourbon whiskey, the state has very serious penalties for driving under the influence, including fines, jail time, and license suspension. Keep in mind that "under the influence" includes not only alcohol but also illegal or prescription drugs; inhalants like gas, glue or spray paint; or even over-the-counter drugs, as long as they cause impairment. If you've been arrested for drunk driving or a related offense, you should learn about Kentucky's drunk driving laws and the consequences you may face if you're convicted.

What Kentucky Law Says About Testing the Alcohol in Your Blood

To determine if a driver is drunk, a police officer will normally conduct a field sobriety test and check your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). Kentucky has an "illegal per se" provision which means that it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 percent or higher (Sec. 189A.010(1)(a)). In these cases, the prosecution does not need to prove you were inebriated; they only need to show that your BAC was .08 percent or higher and that the test was given within two hours of you driving a car (Sec. 189A.010(1)(a) and 189A.010(2)).

Kentucky drunk driving laws also state the following regarding blood-alcohol testing:

  • If your BAC is between .05 and .08 percent, you may still be considered impaired if there is other evidence showing intoxication (Sec. 189A.010(3)(b))
  • Anyone driving in Kentucky is considered to have given consent to one or more tests of breath, blood, or urine test if an officer has reasonable grounds to think the driver is impaired (Sec. 189A.103)
  • Before being tested, you must be offered 10 to 15 minutes to try to contact an attorney (189A.105(3))
  • You may refuse BAC testing, but your license will be suspended for one to four months for a first offense, your refusal can be used against you in court, and it may increase jail time if you're later convicted (Sec. 189A.105)
  • You may refuse a preliminary breath test conducted during the stop before you're arrested and your refusal may not be used against you in court (Sec. 189A.100)
  • A commercial driver with a BAC of .04 percent or more is considered to be driving under the influence and will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year (Sec. 281A.210)

If you're under 21, it's illegal to drive with a BAC of .02 percent or more (Sec. 189A.010(1)(f)). A first offense results in an automatic driver's license suspension for 30 days to six months and a fine of $100 to $500 or community service (Sec. 189A.010(6)).

What Kentucky Law Says About Penalties for Drunk Driving

A conviction for drunk driving in Kentucky carries very serious consequences which vary depending on your age, BAC level, whether you have previous convictions, and other circumstances. Kentucky statutes include the following penalties for driving under the influence:

  • First offense within five-year period (Sec. 189A.010(5)(a) and 189A.070)
    • 30 to 120 days driver's license suspension
    • $200 to $500 fine and/or imprisonment for two to 30 days
    • Defendant may request two to 30 days of community service instead of fines or jail time
    • At least four days in jail for aggravating factors such as BAC level above .15, excessive speeding, or driving with a child under 12 in the car
  • Second offense within five-year period (Sec. 189A.010(5)(b) and 189A.070)
    • 12 to 18 months driver's license suspension
    • $350 to $500 fine
    • Seven days to six months in prison
    • 10 days to six months of community service may be added to sentence
    • At least 14 days in jail for aggravating factors such as BAC level above .15, excessive speeding, or driving with a child under 12 in the car
  • Third offense within five-year period (Sec. 189A.010(5)(c) and 189A.070)
    • Two to three years driver's license suspension
    • $500 to $1,000 fine
    • 30 days to one year in prison
    • At least 60 days in jail for aggravating factors such as BAC level above .15, excessive speeding, or driving with a child under 12 in the car

Read the full text of the Kentucky Statutes for more details.

I Was Arrested for Drunk Driving in Kentucky: What's Next?

Even if you feel ok to drive, you will be arrested for DUI if you're stopped and you either show signs of impairment or your BAC is over the legal limit. However, even if you've been arrested, you can challenge the BAC testing equipment, the procedures used by law enforcement, and the reason for the traffic stop, among other things. An experienced DUI defense attorney can explain the process, guide you through your legal options, and help protect your rights.

Receive a Free Case Review from a Kentucky DUI Attorney

There are serious consequences to drunk driving in Kentucky. License suspensions, fines, and jail time, can all make your life very difficult. Whether you've just been arrested or you're negotiating plea deals, consider getting a free case review from an attorney who has experience with Kentucky's drunk driving laws.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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