Kentucky Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

Learn about the penalties for a first, second, and third DUI conviction in Kentucky.

Kentucky prohibits a person from driving or being in physical control of a vehicle::

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater (.04% or more if the driver was operating a commercial vehicle)
  • while “under the influence” of any controlled substance, alcohol, or a combination thereof which impairs the person’s driving ability, or
  • with any amount of certain listed illicit substances (including methamphetamine and cocaine) in his or her blood.

A violation with a BAC of .08% or more is considered a “per se DUI,” which can result in a conviction regardless of the person’s level of impairment. The amount of alcohol needed to reach these BAC levels can differ depending on the person’s gender, body size and the type of alcohol. But our BAC calculator and BAC table can give you an estimate of how BAC is related to the number of drinks.

Kentucky DUI Penalties

When a person is convicted of a DUI, the judge will decide the jail time, fine amount, and license revocation duration, but is limited by certain parameters. These parameters depend on the number of DUI convictions the offender has had within the past ten years. Prior DUI offenses that occurred in Kentucky, as well as other states, are counted.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

48 hours to 30 days

7 days to 6 months

30 days to 12 months

Fines

$200 to $500

$350 to $500

$500 to $1,000

Aggravating circumstances. DUI convictions that included certain factors—excessive speeding, passengers under 12 years old, an alcohol test refusal, a BAC of .15% or greater, or an injury accident—must serve double the minimum jail time. For example, a driver with a BAC of .18% must serve at least four days in jail for a first offense.

Treatment. All offenders must complete a substance abuse program. A first-offense DUI requires at least 90 days of treatment and a second DUI requires one year of treatment. Subsequent offenses will require at least a year of residential or inpatient substance abuse treatment.

Community service. Judges are also permitted to order the offender to perform community service in addition to the other penalties. And for a first offense OWI, the judge is permitted to order 30 days of community service instead of jail time.

Driver’s License Penalties

For a DUI conviction, the court will order the driver’s license be revoked, followed by a period of time with an ignition interlock device (IID):

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

License Revocation

30 to 120 days

12 to 18 months

24 to 36 months

IID

6 months

12 months

30 months

Any offender under the age of 18 years old will have his or her driver’s license revoked until the age of 18.

Hardship license. After ordering the license revocation, the judge is permitted to grant a temporary restricted license. Generally, this license permits travel related to work, school, or treatment purposes during the revocation period. The permit holder is required to use an IID and be enrolled in substance abuse treatment.

If the driver holds the permit for 12 months without any violations, the judge is permitted to reduce the remaining driver’s license revocation period.

License plate revocation. For second and subsequent offenses, the judge will order the surrender of the offender’s license plate. This surrender can be avoided with the installation of an IID and under other limited circumstances.

Implied consent. A driver can also be subject to driver’s license revocation if he or she refuses a breath test. This penalty is part of Kentucky’s implied consent law and can be imposed even if the DUI is dismissed.

Underage DUI

While everyone can be convicted of a DUI for driving with a BAC of .08% or more, drivers under 21 years of age can be convicted of an underage DUI for driving with a BAC of .02% or greater. A conviction does not carry jail time but does result in a 30 day to six-month driver’s license revocation, a substance abuse program, and either a fine of up to $500 or 20 hours of community service.

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