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Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in KY: What You Need to Know

driving under the influence of drugs

Driving under the influence of drugs (DUI) or drug-impaired driving is an increasing problem in Kentucky. The state roadways routinely witness countless crashes involving injuries or even fatalities due to drug-impaired motorists. Drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, are usually consumed with alcohol, which significantly increases the driver’s impairment. In recent years, Kentucky law enforcement has sharpened its attention on drug-impaired driving. 

Under Kentucky law, it is illegal to operate an automobile within the state “while under the influence of any other substance [other than alcohol] or combination of substances [including alcohol] that impair one’s driving ability.”

Complexities of Drug-Impaired Driving

There are hundreds of drugs that can impair your ability to drive. Certain drugs that can impair vehicle operation abilities are illegal, while some can be used legally under specific conditions. Yet others are readily available over the counter.

Illegal substances, such as stimulants, narcotics, sedatives (anti-depressants), and hallucinogens, are generally involved in impaired driving accidents as are legal non-medicinal substances and prescription drugs.

In the case of many drugs, there exists a complicated relationship between the presence of the substance in the body, its impact on driving, and its impact on accident risk. Such implications are not well understood and differ between drivers.

Kentucky State Law

When it comes to DUI, the law in Kentucky does not distinguish between alcohol and other substances. Drivers found to be drug-impaired could be arrested and charged on various counts if their negligence led to a crash, injury to others, property loss, or a catastrophic fatality.

The blood alcohol standard is relatively easier to ascertain at above 0.08 to consider a driver drunk. However, drug use testing is more complex and often necessitates a blood test. Therefore, it is more challenging for law enforcement personnel to identify drug impairment compared to alcohol impairment.

In particular, law enforcement districts, personnel have been specially trained to detect drug impairment by general observation. But every cop at a traffic stop will not be trained in this process and will instead depend on field sobriety tests (FSTs).

Zero-Tolerance for Marijuana Policy in Kentucky

While there is a minimum limit for blood alcohol content (BAC), there is no minimum limit of marijuana metabolites in the bloodstream of the suspect.

Under Kentucky law, there is zero-tolerance for marijuana. In the state, both possession and use of marijuana are prohibited. Further, it is unlawful to operate a vehicle in Kentucky with any detectable amount of pot in your system.

The Impairing Effect of Various Illegal Substances


The use of marijuana causes disorientation, relaxation, euphoria, altered perception of time and space, image distortion, paranoia, drowsiness, and an increase in heart rate.


Cocaine causes effects such as dizziness, euphoria, excitation, enhanced alertness and focus (initially), disoriented and confused behavior, aggressiveness, paranoia, irritability, and an increased heart rate.


Meth use leads to excitation, euphoria, delusions, hallucination, poor impulse control, insomnia, and an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

Morphine & Heroin

The use of morphine and heroin leads to relaxation, euphoria, sedation, drowsiness, mental clouding, disconnectedness, decreased heart rate, analgesia, vomiting and nausea, and diminished reflexes.

Prescription and Non-Prescription Drugs

Some drugs can be legally bought at a pharmacy, regardless of whether they are prescribed by a physician or purchased over the counter. These kinds of drugs can be just as hazardous for drivers as alcohol and can cause a DUI. When you have doubts about a drug’s capability for impairment, it is a good idea to ask your pharmacist for more information or check warning labels.

Common prescription and non-prescription drugs that can cause impairment are as follows:

  • Antidepressants: Certain sedating antidepressants can lead to impairment that is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Valium: Taking 10 mg of this commonly used tranquilizer can lead to impairment that is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10 percent.
  • Antihistamines: Several antihistamines have a slow reaction time and impact coordination.
  • Decongestants: Many OTC decongestants can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, and anxiety, which are distractions to driving.
  • Sleeping Pills: The residual effects of sleeping can impair motorists, even in the morning.
  • Hydrocodone: The primary component of this common pain reliever is Vicodin, which is similar to opiates and leads to impairment similar to codeine and morphine. 

Implied Consent Law and Refusal to Undergo a Breath or Chemical Test in Kentucky

The law of “implied consent” in Kentucky requires all vehicle operators to submit to a blood or breath test if it is legally requested by a law enforcement officer. If the officer has valid grounds to believe a DUI has occurred, such a request is legal.

The DUI jail penalties will increase if a motorist refuses testing. Also, if the motorist refused to be tested, and the DUI charge was dropped, the court will still suspend the motorist’s license, as though they received a DUI conviction.

Legal Help if You were Arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

In comparison to a DUI charge involving alcohol, the case gets more complicated when drugs are involved. It is difficult for officers to assess the level of impairment at any given time. Therefore, a drugged driving lawyer can usually offer a valid defense in such cases.

If you face charges of driving under the influence of drugs, contact an experienced attorney at the law offices of Ron Aslam promptly. Call today (502) 581-1676 for a free consultation with a seasoned drugged driving defense attorney.