The Kentucky DUI Guide

kentucky dui lawyer


For Attorneys







Division of Motor Vehicle Licensing

Aggravated DUI's



KRS 189A.010 2011



I just got arrested for a Commonwealth of Kentucky DUI offense.  What happens now?


ISSUE ONE:  The Kentucky Implied Consent / Pretrial License Suspension Proceeding:  Under Kentucky "implied consent" law, any person who operates or is in physical control of a motor vehicle or a vehicle that is not a motor vehicle is deemed to have given their consent to one or more tests of his or her blood, breath, and urine, or combination thereof, for the purpose of determining alcohol concentration or presence of a substance which may impair one's driving ability, if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is committing the crime of DUI.

Pursuant this law, your Kentucky license (or your right to drive in Kentucky if you're not a Kentucky license driver) may face suspension for some period of time if you refused a chemical (breath / blood / urine) test.  You may also face a suspension for failing a chemical test if you have a prior DUI within the past five years.  The length of this pretrial suspension depends in large part on your DUI history in the past five years.


Read you paperwork carefully.  You may be able to request a judicial review of this suspension.



ISSUE TWO:  The Kentucky DUI Criminal Case:  Separate from the implied consent suspension is the criminal charge for DUI.  Kentucky law prohibits a person from operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in Kentucky while:

  • (a) Having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more within two hours of operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle (sometimes referred to as "illegal per se" DUI);

  • (b) Under the influence of alcohol;

  • (c) Under the influence of any other substance or combination of substances which impairs one's driving ability;

  • (d) Under the combined influence of alcohol and any other substance which impairs one's ability to drive; or

  • (e) Having an alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or more within two hours of operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle, if you are under twenty-one years of age.

Important:  The implied consent / pretrial license suspension proceeding and the criminal DUI case are completely separate from one another. 


Will my Kentucky driver license be revoked / suspended?


RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Kentucky driver license (or your right to drive in Kentucky if you do not have a valid Kentucky license) may be suspended pursuant to implied consent law for refusing (and sometimes failing a breath, blood, or urine test.



RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the DUI charge, you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in Kentucky if you don't have a valid Kentucky license) for anywhere from 30 days to several years.  This suspension is imposed by the court as part of your sentence.


Talk to your Kentucky DUI attorney for possible suspension lengths for your situation.



Also keep in mind that your license can be suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to a KY DUI arrest e.g. excessive tickets, hit and run etc.


What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended / revoked?


Driving while your license is suspended (on a suspended license) should be avoided as it is a new criminal offense.  Penalties include fines, possible jail time, and an additional license suspension.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a hardship / restricted / occupational / conditional / probationary license?


Kansas law (KRS 189A.400 through 189A.460) provides for the issuance of a hardship driver's license to a person whose driving privilege has been withdrawn for a DUI conviction.  The district court withdrawing the person's driving privilege has exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether the person shall be issued a hardship driver's license.


If you are granted a hardship driver's license, you will only be able to drive to work, school, medical care, and substance abuse education programs.  The court may also require you to install an ignition interlock device on every vehicle you own.


Speak to your Kentucky DUI lawyer about whether you qualify and how to apply for a hardship drivers license.


What is the difference between a DUI, DWI, OWI, OUI, etc.?


These terms are all acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as "drunk driving."  Different states have different names for the crime.  For example, in Texas the charge is known as DWI.  Like most states, Kentucky law uses the term "driving while under the influence" or DUI. 


Is a DUI in Kentucky a misdemeanor or felony charge?


In Kentucky, a DUI is usually a misdemeanor crime.  However, a fourth or greater offense within the past five years is a felony crime.  Few people have this type of DUI history, so felony DUI's are rare in Kentucky.


What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of a Kentucky DUI charge?


Upon conviction of an Kentucky DUI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including alcohol screening / treatment / education of varying lengths.  A range of minimum penalties is set forth below: 



  • 2 to 30 days in jail (minimum 4 days jail if aggravating circumstance are present; see below);
  • $200 - $500 fine;
  • 30 to 120 day KY license suspension. 
second offense within five years
  • 7 days to 6 months in jail (14 days minimum if aggravating circumstances; see below);
  • $350-500 fine;
  • 12 to 18 month KY license suspension.
third offense within five years
  • 30 days to12 months in jail (60 day minimum jail sentence if aggravating circumstances present; see below);
  • $500 - $1000 fine:
  • Two to three year KY license suspension. 
fourth offense within five years
  • 120 days to 5 years in jail / prison (240 day minimum if aggravating circumstances);
  • $1000 - $10,000 fine;
  • 60 months KY license suspension. 

Certain aggravating circumstances can result in higher jail time.  These include:

  • Excessive Speed:  30+ mph over speed limit;
  • Wrong way driving on limited access highway;
  • Causing an accident resulting in death or serious physical injury;
  • BAC / BRAC level of 0.18 percent or more within 2 hours after operating;
  • Refusal to submit to breath / blood testing;
  • Having a passenger under 12 years of age.

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain?

Possibly.  Your DUI lawyer will certainly discuss possible plea agreements with the prosecutor

Will an Kentucky DUI go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  A DUI conviction will go on your Kentucky driving record and will stay on your record for at least five years.  Under some circumstances, you may be able to expunge a DUI arrest.  Talk to your Kentucky DUI attorney for more information. 

Just how much jail / prison time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DUI in Kentucky?

The amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior driving record especially your DUI history (especially your history in the past five years);

•  your level of intoxication / BAC (especially a BAC / BRAC of 0.18 percent or more);

•  whether you refused a chemical test;

•  whether there was an collision involved;

•  whether there was bodily injury to another person in the collision;

•  which Kentucky county or court your case is in;

•  your driving (excessive speed (30+ mph; recklessness);

•  what judge you are sentenced by;

•  whether there was a passenger / child in your car (especially a child under 12);

•  whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.


I am licensed to drive in a state other than Kentucky and I was cited for a DUI in Kentucky.  Will my driver license be suspended?

Kentucky only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the State of Kentucky.  However, Kentucky and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  Kentucky will report a DUI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend your license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a Kentucky licensed driver and you are convicted of a OWI / DWI / DUI charge in another state, Kentucky will suspend your license if it learns of the conviction. 

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?


An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition.  In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration.  If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point (0.02 percent) on the interlock device, the motor vehicle will not start.  An IID also requires drivers to blow into the device periodically while driving. 

What will an Kentucky DUI do to my insurability?

If your insurance company finds out about your DUI one of two things are likely to happen.  Either your Kentucky insurance company will raise your insurance rates or your policy may be cancelled or non-renewed.  Kentucky does not require you to file an SR-22 in order to get your license reinstated as many states do.

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get an Kentucky DUI?


Yes.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Kentucky DUI convictions and certain implied consent suspensions.  Learn more here.

I missed my Kentucky court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things happen.  At a minimum, the Kentucky court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (known as a bench warrant).  Failing to appear can sometimes result in a a new criminal charge as well.  Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.  Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding FTA warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself in court on my Kentucky DUI and / or other criminal charge(s)?

Yes.  You have a constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious including a Kentucky DUI offense.  Keep in mind that Kentucky DUI defense is complex as shown by the information in this website.  If you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer, you definitely should apply for court appointed counsel (a public defender) to represent you.  You have no right to court appointed counsel at the implied consent license proceeding.

Copyright 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Websites, including this one, provide general Kentucky DUI information but do not provide legal advice or create a lawyer / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Kentucky Drunk Driving - DUI lawyers / attorneys for advice about any specific problem or Kentucky DUI charge that you have.  Kentucky attorneys are governed by the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No attorney associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way.  THIS WEBSITE IS AN ADVERTISEMENT.


Providing drunk driving (DUI) and criminal defense assistance to the communities of:  Louisville, Lexington, Owensboro, Bowling Green, Covington, Richmond, Louisville-Jefferson County, and Lexington-Fayette County.  DUI Consequences and Punishment.  Kentucky lawyers may accept Visa, American Express, Discover, and MasterCard credit cards.  2013.


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