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Ignition interlocks in Kentucky: an FAQ

The holidays are upon us. As the year draws to a close and a new one begins, it's once again time to celebrate with family and friends.

Of course, it's also the time of year when police step up enforcement campaigns against impaired driving. This year is no exception; the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety has already announced its participation in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

And if you do get convicted of DUI, there is a new wrinkle this year in Kentucky law: a new ignition interlock law that has had a confusing rollout. How might this law affect you, if you are facing DUI charges?

Here are answers to some common questions about the new law.

When did the new law take effect?

The Kentucky General Assembly passed a new DUI law in March that contained various ignition interlock requirements. An ignition interlock is a device that prevents a vehicle from starting unless the driver blows a valid blood-alcohol breath test result into a mouthpiece.

The new law applies to the sentencing process for repeat offenders. But it also comes into play for first-time offenders with aggravating circumstances, such as the presence of a minor child in the vehicle while driving impaired.

The law was supposed to take effect by June 24. But for several months, there was confusion about what the regulations would be for implementing the new law.

If you have questions about how ignition interlocks might apply to you, it is therefore important to get counsel from a skilled attorney.

How many states have interlock laws?

Kentucky was the 25th state in the nation to pass a law requiring interlocks in at least some circumstances.

If you are approved for an interlock device after license revocation, can you get restricted driving privileges?

The installation of an ignition interlock device can be part of the punishment for a DUI conviction. But it can also be a way to get restricted driving privileges after your license has been revoked for a repeat DUI.

In order to use an interlock to get restricted driving privileges, however, you first have to apply to the court that convicted you. If the court approves and orders the device to be installed, you can apply to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for a device.

This means that courts will have a lot of discretion in use of the ignition interlock program. But there are also numerous statutory provisions that prohibit eligibility for an interlock license.

For example, a hit-and-run conviction prohibits eligibility for driving privileges that are based on the installation of an interlock device.

Is this the same as a hardship license?

The driving privileges that come following the installation of an interlock device are not a license in the strict sense. After all, the very reason that an ignition interlock is under consideration is because of a driver's license revocation.

But the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet refers to the type of restricted driving privileges that come with an interlock device as an interlock license. It can also be called a hardship license.

What can your attorney do?

Because the application of the new ignition interlock law is so new and uncertain, the role of your defense attorney is especially important.

It's true that in a way having to blow into a device to start your car is a punishment. But it can also be an opportunity to regain certain driving privileges sooner after a license revocation.

A skilled and knowledgeable attorney can guide you through this new process that has now been added to Kentucky law.

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