It used to be that a DUI stayed on your record for five years in Kentucky. This month, however, the Kentucky Legislature doubled that to 10.
The bill to make this change, Senate Bill 56, sailed through the House by a 98-0 vote last month. There was, however, one legislator who expressed concerns and did not vote.
Rep. Johnny Bell pointed out that allowing offenses to linger so long on someone's record is counter to the concept of redemption. Rep. Bell also questioned whether the bill will really change anything.
In this post, we will inform you about the change in the law and address the question of what is likely to change.
Senate Bill 56 and repeat DUI offenses
A previous DUI offense can greatly enhance the potential penalties in Kentucky for DUI. It isn't only that a second offense within a specified period carries a presumption of jail time. It's also that a fourth DUI within that period is considered a felony.
Until very recently, the period was five years. But under Senate Bill 56, it has now been increased to 10 years.
The bill was in large part a response to two particular cases.
In one case, a 17-year-old girl, Brianna Taylor, was killed by a man who was driving drunk. The legislator who sponsored Senate Bill 56 said this was the sixth time the man had been charged with DUI. But since the previous convictions were more than five years old, this did not qualify as a repeat offense.
In the other case, a man who allegedly had eight prior DUIs is accused of causing a collision that killed Lexington attorney named Mark Hinkel. Five of those previous convictions were more than five years old.
What works in preventing drunk driving
State officials say that the increased lookback period will bring Kentucky's law more in line with other states. But is it really fair to keep a DUI on a first-time offender's record for an entire decade?
After all, a young person who makes one mistake and gets a DUI at 20 or 21 will now be over 30 by the time the offense can get removed from their record. That's a long time to wait.
There is also the prospect of much harsher penalties for someone who gets a repeat DUI. It used to be that if you had no DUIs within the previous five years, you were not considered a repeat offender. But now you will be - and you might have to go to jail as a result.
It is a fair question whether this is really the most effective way to cut down on drunk driving. There are, after all, other ways to tackle the problem.
One of them is to promote the use of ignition interlock devices. Another is to use interventions that have multiple components, such as creating more effective programs to address alcohol addiction.
In other words, singling out harsher penalties for repeat offenders may result in overlooking strategies that may be more effective in preventing or reducing drunk driving.
Of course, if you have been charged with drunk driving, you don't have time for a policy debate. There are ways to push back against the charges. What you need is an effective DUI defense lawyer to help you do that.