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Is a DUI a misdemeanor or felony charge in Kentucky?

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2023 | DUI Defense |

There are dozens of different criminal statutes in Kentucky that can lead to someone’s prosecution. The severity of a particular criminal charge and its penalties generally depends on how it is categorized. Although there are a variety of subcategories that charges may fall under, most offenses are classified primarily as either misdemeanors or felonies.

Misdemeanors are lesser offenses, typically including non-violent crimes, while felonies are more serious offenses. Some crimes straddle the line between what society deems a major offense and a minor one. Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are a perfect example.

Oftentimes, DUI charges result from targeted traffic enforcement, meaning that charges are levied even though no one was hurt in the incident leading to arrest. However, the violation of alcohol consumption laws while driving means that there is a real risk of injuries for the driver, other occupants of their vehicle and anyone they cross paths with on the road. Ordinarily, non-injurious DUI scenarios are classified as misdemeanors and injurious situations are classified as felonies.

The average DUI is a misdemeanor offense

Yet, there is never any guarantee of exactly how prosecutors will handle a specific case, and the details of a situation often have a powerful influence on the charges and the penalties possible. What happened before someone’s arrest and their personal background will both influence how the state handles DUI charges.

The average DUI that results from a traffic stop will likely be classified as a misdemeanor offense. However, there are scenarios in which the state may pursue more serious charges. There are aggravating factors that, when present, might lead to more serious penalties. For example, if someone was under the influence and also exceeded the speed limit by 30 miles per hour or more, that might justify an aggravated DUI charge. Driving the wrong way on a one-way street, having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.18% or higher, refusing to submit to chemical testing or having a child passenger under the age of 12 in the vehicle are also all aggravating factors.

Additionally, prosecutors can pursue a DUI as a felony offense under certain circumstances. For example, if someone gets arrested for a fourth DUI within 10 years, that could lead to felony prosecution. Those who cause crashes where people get hurt or die might also generally face more serious charges and penalties when accused of impairment on the road.

Learning about how Kentucky handles impaired driving offenses can benefit those accused of intoxication at the wheel if they hope to defend against those charges effectively. Seeking legal guidance is generally the best way to start building a solid defense strategy.