Kentucky DUI Laws (Everything You Should Know)

Kentucky DUI Laws (Everything You Should Know)

What is considered drunk driving in Kentucky?

What are the penalties for DUI?

Are there other laws related to DUI in the state?

Why is drunk driving so dangerous? 

We’re here to answer all these questions and more. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the Kentucky DUI laws. This way, you will make sure to avoid it at all costs. 

So shall we? 

DUI Laws in Kentucky

A DWI (driving while intoxicated) or a DUI (driving under the influence) applies to any driver operating a vehicle that has ingested alcohol or any substance that may affect their driving abilities. 

That is the broad definition. 

To better understand it, let’s take a look at the specific DUI laws in Kentucky. These include: 

  • Blood Alcohol Concentration
  • Implied Consent
  • Drugs and DUI
  • Open Container

Let’s look at these laws one by one. 

Blood Alcohol Concentration

Kentucky DUI Laws

Each time you have an alcoholic drink, your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) increases. The higher it becomes, the more your driving ability gets impaired.

In Kentucky, you are considered drunk driving if your BAC level reaches 0.08%. 

At this level, you’re less likely to detect hazards on the road. You’re also more likely to become uncoordinated, which affects your hearing, vision, and reaction time.

When it comes to commercial drivers and drivers under 21 years old, the BAC level is even lower. 

For commercial drivers, you are already drunk driving if your BAC level reaches 0.04%. As for drivers under 21 years old, you will be charged with DUI with a BAC level of 0.02%. 

It is a lot stricter as commercial drivers need more skills to operate a CMV, while under 21s are not yet even allowed to drink. 

Implied Consent

When a law enforcement officer stops you for suspected DUI, he may ask you to undergo a breath or blood test to confirm the amount of alcohol in your system. 

This is where the Kentucky Implied Consent Law kicks in.

This law states that…

“A person operating a vehicle in Kentucky automatically “agrees” to undergo a test after being stopped for impaired driving.” 

It’s a sticky situation — if you go through it, the state can use the results against you in court, if indeed you were drunk driving.

However, there are also consequences to refusing the test. You may lose driving privileges even if you don’t receive a conviction.

Drugs and DUI

A DUI isn’t limited to drivers with alcohol in their system. 

Remember, Kentucky’s law includes any substance(s) that impairs driving ability.

You can still get pulled over for a DUI even if you weren’t drinking. Plus, you can be charged with DUI if you’re under medication — and yes, that applies to drugs purchased with or without a prescription. 

Let’s look at some of these. 

Some kinds of medication make you drowsy. These include medicines for migraines, fever, colds, or anxiety. You’ll have difficulty concentrating on the road and are less likely to respond to a hazard appropriately.

Other medications serve as uppers as it makes you more alert and increases your energy level. Diet pills, Adderall, or Ritalin, are examples. However, you may experience bouts of dizziness afterward, leaving you feeling shaky and weak.

Then some alter your perception of your environment, such as marijuana. It causes you to find adjusting to headlight glare more challenging and allows you to make more mistakes while behind the wheel. 

So, make sure to watch out for the drugs that impair your driving. 

Open Container

Finally, there is the Open Container Law. 

This law states…

“You or any passenger cannot have an opened container containing alcoholic beverages in a moving vehicle.” 

And it doesn’t have to be in your hands either — prohibited areas extend to places you can reach, like your glove compartment or the floor behind the front seats.

However, it’s also crucial to know the exceptions to this law:

  • It does not cover areas that are not readily accessible to you and your passengers, like your trunk. If you have an open container of alcohol, it’s safest to keep it there. 
  • It does not cover vehicles for hire, whether these are limos, buses, and cabs. Neither does it apply to motor homes and recreational vehicles.
  • It does not apply if you bring a partially-consumed bottle of wine home from a restaurant. However, the establishment has to take specific precautions, such as resealing the bottle and packing it in a container that shows whether or not you’ve opened it.

DUI Penalties in Kentucky

A DUI charge in Kentucky is no joke. The penalties you face will be extensive and expensive.

The tables below show the consequences of driving under the influence.

For Underage Drivers:

License revocation:30 days to 6 months
Fines:$100 to $500
Probation: 20 hours of community serviceCompletion of a substance abuse program

For Drivers 21 and Older:

Offense:Jail Time:Fines:License Suspension:Treatment Program:
First48 hours to 30 days$200 to $5006 months90 days
Second7 days to 6 months$350 to $50018 months1 year
Third30 days to 1 year$500 to $1,00036 months
Fourth1 to 5 yearsUp to $10,00060 months

The Kentucky Ignition Interlock Program

Having your driver’s license suspended can create challenges in multiple areas of your life. Fortunately, you can shorten the suspension by enrolling in Kentucky’s Ignition Interlock Program (KIIP).

You must remain violation-free for 90 to 120 days to qualify for a license suspension reduction. Being part of this program can shorten your penalty as follows:

Offense:License Suspension:Required Violation-Free KIIP Participation:Program Treatment:
First4 months90 days90 days
Second12 months120 days1 year
Third18 months
Fourth30 months

However, remember that the KIIP only affects your license’s suspension. It doesn’t exempt you from paying fines or serving jail time.

Dangers of DUI 

There’s a reason why the penalties for DUIs in Kentucky are steep. 

The number of fatalities from vehicle accidents involving drunk driving increased from 10,196 in 2019 to 11,654 in 2020 — a 14% jump.

Although you’re still within legal limits if your BAC is below 0.08%, it doesn’t mean your safety’s guaranteed if you get behind the wheel. 

Remember, your driving ability is already compromised even if your BAC is only at 0.02%.

Now, drinking while driving makes the following more likely:

  • Impaired vision. Alcohol or drugs can cause your vision to blur, or you may have difficulty seeing things peripherally. This makes you incorrectly gauge the distance between you and other vehicles, objects, or pedestrians.
  • Poor coordination. Alcohol and drugs affect your hand or foot movement. That’s why walking or standing straight is challenging when you’re drunk. When behind the wheel, you might be unable to find or operate your vehicle’s controls.
  • Difficulty in concentration. It’s challenging enough to stop yourself from being distracted when sober — imagine how difficult it is when drunk. Unfortunately, driving requires a lot of focus. You must ensure you’re not veering off your lane while maintaining speed.
  • Poor judgment. Identifying potential hazards in time with a raised BAC is challenging. And, even if you do, your decision-making skills are impaired and might lead you to make unfavorable choices.
  • Slow reaction time. Crashing into another vehicle or a tree is avoidable if you react fast enough. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely when you’re under the influence. 

All these can lead to disastrous results.

And this is why DUI is so dangerous and must be avoided at all costs. 


Before we go, let’s leave you with a few FAQs about DUIs in Kentucky. 

What to do when stopped for DUI?

Getting pulled over can be stressful, but it’s best to keep calm and do the following:

  • Turn your car’s engine off and completely roll down your window
  • Ensure you keep your hands on the steering wheel so the law enforcement officer can see them when he approaches you
  • Look for your driver’s license, insurance, and registration documents only when asked
  • Unless instructed otherwise, stay inside your car

If the officer asks you to come out, don’t jump to the conclusion that it’ll lead to an arrest. Keep calm and avoid becoming defensive.

It’s best not to argue with the officer if he issues you a ticket. You can dispute it later if you feel it’s unwarranted, but don’t get into an argument at the roadside.

Can you get out of a DUI in Kentucky?

Yes, you can. However, it’ll take a bit of work.

The best thing to do is disprove the evidence used for your case. These might include the following:

  • Inaccurate results of your breath or blood test, which confirms your BAC level
  • Errors the arresting police officer committed while charging you
  • Possible medical reasons on your end

It’s also good to consult a lawyer to understand your options.

Is a DUI considered a felony in Kentucky?

A DUI is usually only considered a misdemeanor, but repeat offenses will make it a felony. In Kentucky, a fourth DUI offense within 10 years is a Class D felony.

How likely is jail time for a first DUI in Kentucky?

You may find yourself serving some jail time, even if it’s your first offense. It can be for 2 days or a month. Not too long, but enough to make you reconsider your driving choices. 

How long does a DUI stay on your record in Kentucky?

A DUI stays on your record for 10 years. Plus, it will affect your insurance rates as long as it’s there.

The Wrap Up

And that was everything you needed to know about the Kentucky DUI laws. 

A DUI is a serious matter, so it’s best to avoid getting behind the wheel when you’ve had a couple of drinks or taken medications. 

Remember, you don’t want to face the harsh penalties set in Kentucky. 

Even worse, you don’t want to face the consequences of a car accident, injuries, or even death. 

So be a responsible and safe driver!

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