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Understanding Kentucky’s Implied Consent Law

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | DUI Defense |

One of life’s most heart-stopping moments is the sight of the flashing lights of a law-enforcement vehicle in the rear-view mirror. The moment can become especially fraught if the driver has just consumed one or more alcoholic beverages.

The law enforcement officer driving the vehicle with flashing lights may approach the vehicle that was stopped and ask the driver to take a field sobriety test.

Virtually everyone who has found themselves in this situation has wondered if they have the right to refuse the officer’s request. The answer to this question is complicated, and it depends upon a number of factors.

Kentucky’s limits on blood alcohol content for drivers

Kentucky law prohibits anyone with a blood alcohol content (BAC), that is, the percentage of alcohol in an individual’s blood, above 0.08% from operating a motor vehicle on the state’s roads. The officer’s request for a blood alcohol test is authorized by a statute known as the state’s “implied consent law.”

The law gets its name from the fact that is predicated on the presumption that anyone who drives a car on Kentucky’s roads has impliedly given his or her consent to the request and the subsequent test. Driving in Kentucky is considered to be a privilege, not a constitutionally protected right.

Driving under the influence and probable cause

Police officers use three tests to determine whether they have probable cause to charge a driver with driving under the influence: the walk-and-turn test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and the one-legged stand test. If a driver fails any of these tests, the officer has probable cause to believe that the driver is intoxicated within the meaning of Kentucky law.

If the driver refuses to take any of these tests, the refusal will be entered into the driver’s public records, and the driver’s license will be temporarily suspended until a trial resolves the matter of intoxication. Moreover, the driver’s refusal to submit to the test can be admitted into evidence at a trial to determine whether the driver was intoxicated while driving.

The important point is that a refusal to take the field sobriety test does not resolve the matter of whether the driver was intoxicated while driving; it merely postpones the decision until a judge can hear all of the evidence.

Should I refuse the test?

Refusing to take the field sobriety test can be a matter of personal choice. However, a person who has been stopped after having one or more drinks should attempt to contact an attorney for advice on how to proceed.

The knowledge of an experienced defense attorney can be an important shield against an unwanted – and unwarranted – charge of DUI.