Kentucky Drugged Driving Laws

Learn about the penalties for drugged or high driving in Kentucky.

Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is illegal in Kentucky. Kentucky also has a zero-tolerance law regarding driving after taking certain drugs or medications. This article explains what is considered drugged driving in Kentucky and what penalties to expect if you're convicted of a drug DUI.

Level of Drug Impairment That Can Lead to a DUI

A driver can be convicted of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) if the drug or other substance impairs the driver's ability to operate a vehicle. But a driver can also be convicted of DUID if he or she is caught operating a vehicle with any amount of certain controlled substances in his or her blood. Although these two types of drug DUIs are different in terms of the evidence necessary to prove the charge, the penalties for a conviction are the same.

Impaired DUID. A driver is considered intoxicated if his or her mental or physical capacities are disturbed by a foreign bodily substance. During the investigation, the officer might use special drug recognition tests to determine if the driver is under the influence of drugs or other substances. To prove an impairment DUID charge at trial, the prosecutor might rely on evidence like blood test results, expert testimony, and the drug recognition test results. The fact that a driver had a prescription for the consumed drugs is not a defense to an impaired DUI charge.

Per se DUID. A driver with any amount of listed controlled substance in his or her blood can be convicted of a per se DUID regardless of impairment. The list of qualifying substances includes cocaine, hydrocodone, and many other drugs but explicitly excludes marijuana. The fact that a driver was legally prescribed a medication is a defense to a per se DUID charge, though a conviction based on impairment is still possible.

Kentucky DUI Penalties

Drugged driving is generally a misdemeanor and the penalties are generally the same as those for drunk driving. Kentucky counts all prior DUI offenses within the last ten years.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense


48 hours to 30 days

7 days to 6 months

30 days to 12 months


$200 to $500

$350 to $500

$500 to $1,000

License Revocation

30 to 120 days

12 to 18 months

24 to 36 months

Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

6 months

12 months

30 months


90 days

1 year

1 year

Aggravating circumstances. Certain factors such as speeding, causing an injury, having a child passenger, or refusing a chemical test will generally double the minimum jail time.

Hardship licenses. A suspended or revoked driver is usually eligible for a hardship license, which provides limited driving privileges. To obtain this license, the offender must be enrolled in a treatment program and must install an ignition interlock device (IID) regardless of whether the incident involved alcohol.

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