Kentucky’s Implied Consent Laws and Refusing a Blood or Breath Alcohol Test

The requirement to submit to BAC testing following a DUI arrest and the penalties of a refusal in Kentucky.

During a DUI investigation, the officer will in most cases ask the driver to take a breath or blood alcohol test to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in the driver's system. The driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or the concentration of drugs in the driver's system is often used as evidence to prove a DUI in court.

This article gives an overview of the law requiring a driver to submit to DUI chemical testing and the consequences of an unlawful refusal.

Implied Consent

Kentucky's implied consent law basically says that any person who drives in Kentucky thereby agrees to take one or more chemical tests if requested to do so by an officer. However, the driver is required to take the test only if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the driver was in violation of the state's DUI laws. These chemical tests may include breath, blood, or urine samples.

Consequences of Refusal

Evidentiary uses. It may be more difficult for a prosecutor to prove a DUI without a valid chemical test. But the fact that a driver refused to submit to testing can actually be used against him or her at trial. Although a refusal doesn't exactly prove intoxication, prosecutors often argue that the person refused testing to hide intoxication.

Enhanced penalties. Refusal of a lawfully requested chemical test is not a crime in Kentucky but can be used to enhance the penalties of a DUI. DUI convictions involving refusals carry twice the normal minimum mandatory jail time. Any person who refuses testing and is charged with a DUI will not be permitted to plea to a lesser offense.

License revocation. A driver who unlawfully refuses testing will generally face license suspension. At the DUI arraignment hearing, the court will generally suspend the driver's license if he or she refused testing. The driver's license will remain suspended until the DUI case is resolved. If the driver is convicted, any period of suspension already served can count towards the suspension that results from a DUI conviction.

If the driver refuses testing and is not found guilty of DUI, the judge can still revoke the driver's license if the prosecutor can show that reasonable grounds for the DUI arrest existed and the driver refused a lawfully requested test. If the prosecutor is successful, the judge will revoke the driver's license for:

  • six months for a first offense
  • 18 months for a second offense
  • 36 months for a third offense, and
  • 60 months for a fourth offense.

Restricted license. A judge who orders license suspension at the arraignment can also order the driver to participate in the Kentucky Ignition Interlock Program. The program requires the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) but allows the driver to operate a vehicle equipped with an IID during the suspension period. The program can also reduce the overall suspension period if the driver avoids IID violations.

License reinstatement. Generally, suspended drivers must complete an approved treatment program prior to reinstatement.

Talk to an Attorney

If you've been arrested or cited for refusing a chemical test in Kentucky, it's a good idea to get in touch with a DUI lawyer. DUI law is complicated and every case is different. A qualified DUI attorney can tell you how the law applies to your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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