Kentucky DUI Laws

Kentucky DUI Laws

by Corie Lynn Rosen, December 2009

The Kentucky Derby may be decadent and depraved, but beyond landmark journalism, Kentucky area decadence and depravity are probably ill advised. For those who plan to drive in the Bluegrass State, sobriety is the only way to prevent trouble with the law. But if you or someone you know has been arrested for driving under the influence in Kentucky, there are a few essential things you ought to know.

As in most other states, Kentucky uses two theories to find liability in drivers suspected of DUI. The first of these is the per se theory of intoxication. Under the per se rule, any person with a blood alcohol level that exceeds .08% is per se guilty of violating the state's prohibition against driving while intoxicated. The per se rule is a little tricky, since it does not take into account the state of the driver at the time of the arrest. Proof of per se intoxication is typically obtained through blood or breath testing, although the police may request a urine test if they believe it is the best means of ascertaining the arrestee's level of intoxication.

Because Kentucky uses the theory of implied consent, anyone driving within the state's borders is required to submit to testing when requested by an arresting officer. Refusal to take the test is considered an aggravating factor and can result in harsher punishment and, in some cases, is even thought to imply a guilty conscience.

Although tests to ascertain blood alcohol content are fairly accurate, there are several factors that can render them inaccurate, or at least inadmissible, and test results are not always the best way to determine whether or not the arrestee was legally intoxicated at the time of his arrest Factors such as when the arrestee had his last drink, the time of the test, and other substances in the arrestee's system may complicate test results and cause them to show either higher or lower levels of intoxication than those present in the arrestee at the time his erratic driving, usually the tip off for police, was noticed.

Beyond finite test results, the state uses a more subjective method to determine guilt under the second standard, the traditional or common law theory of driving while under the influence. Under this standard, the observations of the arresting officer, and in some cases videotapes, can be used to ascertain the relative state of the arrestee. Things like speech pattern, driving pattern, overall appearance, smell of alcohol, and performance of field sobriety tests can all be used to show the guilt or innocence of the accused. Under this theory, a person need not meet the per se standard for intoxication. A driver with a blood alcohol level below the legal limit may be found guilty of driving while intoxicated if his ability to operate his vehicle seems significantly impaired.

In Kentucky, first time offenders can expect fines of up to seven hundred and fifty dollars and in some cases up to one month of jail time. As always, the best advice for those taking to the roads in the bluegrass state is don't drink and drive.