A new DUI law was passed recently in Kentucky, and it's starting to impact cases. Some have said that the law, which allows the court to look back further when dealing with repeat offenders, is confusing and offers "unequal justice." One thing is for certain: It can change the type of sentence a person gets.
A Decade of Looking Back
In the past, the state only looked at offenses from the previous five years when considering a more recent arrest. For example, if someone was tried today and had a DUI arrest in 2014, this would be his or her second offense. After five years, the previous offense would be ignored, so another arrest would be a "first" offense.
The current law changes this so that the court can now look at everything that happened over the past decade. This change was initiated in April of this year.
Upgrading to a Felony
The 51-year-old man who was being charged would have been given a first offense sentence under the previous law. He hadn't had a charge since 2009. It would have simply been a misdemeanor. Under the new law, with the extra five years, his current charge became a fourth offense. That upgraded it to a felony. While misdemeanors typically carry light sentences, he could now get a max of five years behind bars.
The man didn't know exactly how the change would impact him. This could be because other judges have not looked at the law in a retroactive sense, though they may be allowed to -- the law is not clear and many have said it makes things confusing for courts and offenders. The man's legal team said that he came before the judge thinking he'd do 30 days in jail at the most, so he was shocked to find out it could be five years.
Clarification and Understanding
This is a big change to the law in Kentucky, and it's clear that more clarification may be needed so that people know how this law can be used. It will be important for residents to keep an eye on this process so that they can understand exactly what offenses count against them and what ramifications they could face in DUI cases.
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