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What are the Major Changes with the New Kentucky DUI Laws?


In March of 2019, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin signed into law a bill that would require first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device (IID) into their vehicle or face stricter penalties. Under the current law, only repeat offenders and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or above are required to install IIDs. The new law highly incentivizes all first-time DUI offenders to install the device. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2020.

Why Did Kentucky Toughen their DUI Laws?

Under heavy lobbying from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA), lawmakers in the Bluegrass State passed legislation to strengthen DUI laws. It began as Senate Bill 85, which proposed new provisions that were designed to encourage all have those who are convicted for drunk driving to install an ignition interlock device. 

Supporters of the bill argued that under the new law, more drunk drivers would be taken off the roads and more lives would be saved. Before the Senate vote, the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Whitney Westerfield said, “If we had equipped more drivers with ignition interlock devices, we wouldn’t have nearly as many DUIs, we wouldn’t have nearly as many crashes or fatalities”.

Supporters also argued that driver’s license suspensions are not enough to keep drunk drivers off the road, pointing out that Kentucky had about 24,500 DUIs in 2017, which ranks among the top 10 highest in the nation, and that more than 150 people were killed and almost 3,000 were injured in DUI accidents that year.

SB 85 passed both the Senate and the House unanimously before being signed into law by the governor. Kentucky became the 33rd state in the nation to enact this type of legislation.

What will Change Under Kentucky Senate Bill 85?

SB 85 is geared mainly toward first-time DUI offenders. Under the new law, ignition interlock devices would now be available to all those who are convicted for drunk driving. First-time offenders who choose to have an IID installed in their vehicles for six months would be able to retain their driving privileges. If, however, they refuse to install the device, they would face a nine-month driver’s license suspension. Repeat offenders and first-time offenders with a BAC of 0.15 will continue to be required to install an IID.

There are a couple of other changes with the new law that are worth noting:

  • Kentucky’s ignition interlock program will move toward a more compliance-based model, meaning that DUI offenders would have to complete a 120-day period of sober driving before they are allowed to exit the program;
  • The state’s ignition interlock program will now be administered by the Transportation Cabinet, and funds will be allotted to bring on additional staff in order to run the program.

Although SB 85 enjoyed overwhelming support among Kentucky lawmakers, critics pointed to some potential flaws in the legislation. The main criticism is the cost of installing an IID for a first-time DUI offender. Those who are arrested for drunk driving already face other legal costs that they must incur to defend themselves. The installation of the IID would be an added expense that these individuals would have difficulty paying. On top of that, those who install IIDs also have to pay significantly higher insurance rates.

The end result could end up being that offenders who could not afford the costs associated with installing an IID would decide instead to drive on a suspended license in order to get to work. Whether most first-time offenders choose to install an IID or go with a longer suspension period remains to be seen. But whatever comes of this new law, our office will continue working tirelessly to protect the legal rights of those who are facing DUI charges.

Charged for DUI in Kentucky? Contact a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested and charged for drunk driving in Kentucky, you are facing severe consequences, which may include heavy fines, loss of driving privileges, and even jail time. Being charged for DUI is not the same as a conviction, however. And there are several potential defenses that may be used to have the charges reduced, dismissed, or otherwise minimize the negative consequences – depending on the specific circumstances of your case. 

Attorney Ron Aslam provides aggressive, results-driven defense for clients charged with drunk driving and other criminal offenses in Louisville and throughout Central Kentucky. Contact our office today at 502.581.1676 to schedule a consultation and case assessment.