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Changing DUI laws may mean a lifetime of consequences

Your first DUI arrest was probably a wake-up call. Whether you had never before driven after drinking, or you were just lucky not getting caught sooner, being handcuffed and processed was likely something you are not eager to repeat. Even if you were fortunate to have a lenient judge who sentenced you to community service, you may have promised yourself that it was your first and last mistake.

But that was 10 years ago. In Kentucky, after 10 years, the first DUI essentially does not exist. In fact, you can even have it expunged under certain conditions. If police pull you over again 10 years after your first conviction, the court will treat you as if it's your first offense. Maybe you were thinking about that when you left the party the other night.

Tightening DUI laws

A first offense DUI in Kentucky usually carries no jail time, as long as there are no aggravating circumstances. However, it may cost you a hefty fine, substance abuse classes and a driver's license suspension. If police pull you over again before 10 years have passed, they are likely to charge you with a second DUI, which could carry much higher penalties, including jail time.

However, the legislature is close to passing a bill allowing drivers only one first-time DUI. A driver who is arrested a second time for DUI, no matter how many years have passed, will face the consequences of a second offense. This is another step in Kentucky's plan to toughen DUI laws. Other changes or potential changes include:

  • Making you wait 10 years instead of five to expunge your DUI conviction
  • Requiring ignition interlock systems as a penalty for some subsequent DUI convictions
  • Possibly banning "shock probation," which is a brief stay in prison if your DUI accident resulted in someone's death. The purpose is to shock you into avoiding a repeat of the same offense.

While some in the state feel leaving the first conviction on your record for life is unfair, perhaps damaging future employment opportunities, others believe too many people are manipulating the system because they know the conviction will disappear after time has passed.

Your future is on the line

Whether this is your first DUI or your fifth, legal counsel is recommended to mitigate the consequences of charges against you. A lawyer will have the resources and experience to examine and challenge the evidence. With the right defense strategy, an attorney may be able to minimize the consequences of your conviction or possibly have your case dismissed altogether.

Kentucky is working hard to make DUI penalties tougher, and your future is at stake because of this. Leaving the outcome of your situation to chance is risky when an attorney can defend your rights from the moment of your arrest.

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