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What Makes a DUI Aggravated in KY?


Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is a serious criminal offense that can carry harsh and lasting consequences. In Kentucky, the severity of the penalties for DUI are dependent on two main factors; the number of prior convictions the defendant has, and whether or not there were certain factors that make the offense more serious. These are commonly known as “aggravated circumstances.” DUI convictions with aggravated circumstances can carry enhanced penalties, which may include mandatory jail time even for first-time offenders.

There are several factors that make a DUI aggravated in Kentucky. These include:

  • Excessive Speeding: Driving more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit.
  • Wrong-Way Driving: Driving in the wrong direction on a limited-access highway.
  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .15 or Higher: Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .15 or above as measured by a chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) taken within two hours of the DUI arrest.
  • DUI with Serious or Fatal Injury: Causing an accident while driving under the influence that results in death or serious physical injury.
  • Child Endangerment: Operating a motor vehicle (while under the influence) that is transporting a passenger who is under the age of 12.
  • Refusal of Chemical Test with Prior DUI Convictions: If the defendant has prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years, refusing to submit to the mandatory chemical test conducted at the police station or hospital after the arrest.

Additional Notes about Test Refusals

It is important to note that refusing the chemical test is not an aggravating factor under Kentucky law for a first-time DUI offender. Police officers sometimes make the mistake of charging a first-time offender with aggravated DUI for refusing this test, and this is a crucial mistake that should be corrected before the defendant negotiates a plea bargain or goes to trial.

It is also important to note with regards to refusal of testing that it is not an aggravated DUI to refuse the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test or preliminary breath test (PBT) that is administered on the side of the road after someone is pulled over for DUI. This test is voluntary, and its primary purpose is to establish probable cause for an arrest (although the police may not tell you this). In general, it is in your best interests to refuse this test unless you are absolutely certain that you are below the legal (BAC) limit.

With the mandatory chemical test that is given after the arrest, there will be consequences for refusing, even if you are a first-time offender. Although this is not an aggravated factor if this is your first offense, refusal can trigger other penalties, such as the automatic loss of your driving privileges prior to a criminal trial. Still, there may be times when refusing the chemical test is in your best interests. 

For example, if your BAC is .15 or higher, you will be charged for aggravated DUI no matter how many prior offenses you have. For this reason, it would be better for a first-time offender in this situation to refuse the test if they were pretty certain they would register a BAC of at least .15.

What are the Penalties for Aggravated DUI in Kentucky?

There are two main penalty enhancements that are imposed on those who are convicted for aggravated DUI:

  • The minimum jail time is doubled;
  • Service of that jail time is mandatory without the possibility of an early release.

Here are the sentences for DUI offenders with aggravated circumstances:

  • First Offense: 4 days minimum up to a maximum of 30 days.
  • Second Offense: 14 days minimum up to a maximum of 6 months.
  • Third Offense: 60 days minimum up to a maximum of 12 months.
  • Fourth Offense: 240 days minimum up to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.

There may be other enhanced penalties for aggravated DUI as well, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, fines could be higher, and it may be far more difficult to obtain a hardship license which allows an individual to travel to and from work, school, or treatment during the period when their license is suspended. Also, if there are two or more aggravating factors present, prosecutors may be more aggressive and push for harsher penalties.

Facing Aggravated DUI Charges in Kentucky? Contact a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer

A DUI charge with aggravated circumstances is definitely not a situation that you can afford to take lightly. The consequences are far worse than even a standard DUI conviction, and you could end up with mandatory jail time along without the chance for an early release. If you are in this situation, you need strong legal counsel in your corner fighting hard to protect your rights and interests.

If you are in Louisville or anywhere in Central Kentucky, contact attorney Ron Aslam to schedule a consultation and case assessment. Ron will thoroughly evaluate your case, and if you retain his services, he will develop an aggressive defense strategy that is designed to minimize the negative consequences as much as possible.

Call our office today at 502.581.1676 or message us through our online contact form with more details about your arrest.