Kentucky Drunk Driving Laws

When is a Driver Considered to be Legally Drunk in Kentucky?

  • Non-commercial drivers age 21+ are considered legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .08 or more.
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles are legally drunk when their blood alcohol concentration is .04 percent or greater. Under Kentucky law, school bus drivers are commercial drivers.
  • Drivers under 21 are legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is
    .02 or more.

Penalties for Drunk Driving in Kentucky

  • Punishment for first-time offenders is a term of imprisonment of 48 hours to 30 days. First-time offenders must also pay a fine ranging from $200 to $500. The driver’s license revocation period is 30 to 120 days.
  • Those who commit a second offense within five years face seven days to six months in a county jail. They must also pay a fine ranging from $350 to $500. The driver’s license revocation period is 12 to 18 months.
  • Those who commit a third offense within five years face 30 days to one year in a county jail. They must also pay a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000. The driver’s license revocation period is 24 to 36 months.
  • For a fourth or subsequent conviction within five years, the offender faces a prison term of one to five years and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. The driver’s license revocation period is five years.
  • Greater Mandatory Minimum Prison Terms if an “Aggravating Circumstance” is Present
  • If an “aggravating circumstance” is present, the mandatory minimum prison term will be increased. “Aggravating circumstances” include speeding in excess of 30 miles per hour above the speed limit; operating a vehicle in the wrong direction on a limited access highway; operating a vehicle that causes an accident that results in death or serious physical injury; operating a vehicle with a BAC of .18 or above; refusing to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test; and operating a vehicle while transporting a passenger under 12 years of age.

Ignition Interlock

  • If a person is convicted of a second or subsequent DUI, the judge may order that the offender’s license plate be impounded. In lieu of ordering plate impoundment, the judge may order the offender to install an ignition interlock device, as follows:
  • For a second conviction in a five-year period, the device must be installed after the expiration of the driver’s license suspension period for six months.
  • For a third conviction within a five-year period, the device must be installed after the expiration of the driver’s license suspension period for 12 months.
  • For a fourth or subsequent conviction in a five-year period, the device must be installed after the expiration of the driver’s license suspension period for 30 months.

Commercial Drivers

In addition to other penalties associated with Kentucky’s DUI laws, a commercial driver who is convicted of driving any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol for the first time will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year. If, however, the driver was operating a commercial vehicle and transporting hazardous materials at the time, the disqualification period is three years. If a commercial driver commits a second DUI while driving any vehicle, the offender will be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle for life, which may or may not be reduced to 10 years.

Drivers Under 21

In addition to other penalties that may apply, if a driver under 21 drives with a BAC of at least .02 but less than .08, the driver’s license revocation period is 30 days to six months. The underage offender will also be subject to pay a fine of $100 to $500 or be required to perform 20 hours of community service work. The offender may also be required to attend a 90-day alcohol education or treatment program.

If a driver under 21 drives with a BAC of .08 or greater, the underage offender will be subject to the DUI penalties applicable to adults.

Drivers Under 18

In addition to other penalties associated with underage DUI, if a driver under 18 is convicted of DUI, the minor’s driver’s license will be revoked until he or she reaches 18 or in accordance with the revocation laws applicable to adults, whichever penalty results in a longer revocation.

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What is Kentucky’s Limitation on Liability of Sellers of Intoxicating Beverages Statute?

Under Kentucky law, an intoxicated person is primarily liable for any injuries his or her intoxication causes a third person to suffer. A drinking establishment can, however, be held secondarily liable if a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances should have known that the person served was already intoxicated at the time of service. Kentucky courts have held that this statute clearly implies that any licensed drinking establishment that sold alcohol to an underage person will be liable for third-party injuries.

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Prohibitions on Certain Alcohol Sales

Licensed drinking establishments are not permitted to serve minors, persons under the influence of alcohol, or anyone known to the seller to be a habitual drunkard. Penalties for a first violation include a fine of up to $250 and a term of imprisonment of up to 90 days. Second-time offenders face a fine of up to $500 and a term of imprisonment of up to 12 months.

Need more information on state laws? Learn more about the laws where you live.

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Note: Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. This information is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, although if you are injured in an accident, we have relationships with other personal injury attorneys and lawyers throughout the United States.

Please note: All of our lawyers are licensed to practice in the state of Pennsylvania. We also have lawyers licensed to practice in Ohio, and West Virginia and we associate with experienced attorneys in other states.

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