What Is a Felony DUI in Kentucky?

How impaired driving can lead to a felony conviction in Kentucky.

Kentucky prohibits driving under the influence (DUI), be it operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A driver can also be convicted of a DUI for driving with any amount of illicit substance (such as cocaine) in his or her blood. Most Kentucky DUIs are misdemeanors but criminal history and aggravating factors can elevate a DUI to a felony. This article outlines the different types of felonies arising from impaired driving.

Habitual DUI Felony

A fourth-offense DUI in Kentucky will be a class D felony. Kentucky has a ten-year lookback period for DUIs, so an offender will need to have three priors within the last ten years to be charged with a fourth-offense felony DUI. Underage DUIs are not counted as priors.

A fourth-offense DUI conviction carries one to five years in prison and $1,000 to $10,000 in fines. If the judge grants probation, the offender must serve at least 120 days in jail prior to probationary release and will be required to complete a one-year treatment program, serve a 60-month license suspension, and install an ignition interlock device (IID).

Additionally, the minimum jail time will be doubled to 240 days if there were any aggravating factors such as excessive speeding, a child passenger, or high BAC.

Felony Charges for DUIs Involving Injuries and Deaths

Impaired driving can also result in felony charges if anyone is injured or killed. An impaired driver can be charged with assault (for injuries) or manslaughter (for fatalities) in addition to a DUI and face the penalties of both.

Injuries. Causing serious physical injury while DUI will usually be 2nd-degree assault, a class C felony. This includes five to ten years in prison and $1,000 to $10,000 in fines. If the prosecutor can show the driver showed extreme indifference to the value of life, the offender can face 1st-degree assault and 10 to 20 years in prison.

Fatalities. A DUI that results in a fatality will generally be a class C felony and carry five to ten years in prison and a $1,000 to $10,000 fine. It's possible for the offender to be convicted of murder if the prosecutor proves the driver's actions amounted to "extreme indifference to human life." Murder in Kentucky is a capital offense and carries a life sentence.

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