New Bill Would Erase Kentucky Lookback Period for First DUI Offenders

Kentucky lookback period for DUIHow many first DUI offenses is a person entitled to? This is the question that’s being debated in the Kentucky legislature.

Currently Kentucky has a 10-year lookback period, meaning that if you are charged with drunk driving, the state can look back 10 years to see if you’ve had another DUI in that time. If so, the new DUI counts as a second offense, with greater penalties. If it happened more than a decade ago, you get to “reset” the clock, and you are charged with a first offense.

The Kentucky lookback period was extended from five to ten years in April of last year.

Now the legislature is considering House Bill 261, which would mean that a Kentuckian would never be able to have more than one first DUI offense. Any subsequent drunk driving charge would go down as a second offense, even if it occurred a quarter century or more after the first.

The Kentucky Lookback Period

The idea of a lookback period is to balance the need of the state to track multiple offenders with the right of an offender to wipe a slate clean by staying within the law. Most states allow offenders to start over after a period of seven, ten, or fifteen years. There are a few with no lookback periods, however,

Opponents of HB 261 feel that there should be a limit to how long a person can be considered a drunk driver – after 10 years with no violations, one should be considered a non-offender.

Supporters feel that the bill will discourage drunk drivers. Anyone who knows that they are looking at a second offense will be extra careful about driving while impaired.

What Kentucky Really Needs – More Ignition Interlocks

House Bill 261 has its heart in the right place, but it’s not the most efficient way to achieve the goal of reducing drunk driving in the state. The bill presupposes that a person who has stayed out of trouble for ten years after a DUI will relax his or her standards after the lookback period ends. That’s not very plausible. And in fact, there’s not a lot of research showing that such a move would make a difference in DUI rates.

What Kentucky should do is mandate ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders, including first offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Currently first offenders only get an interlock if their BAC is .15 or greater. Also, the state should only remove the interlocks when the offender has passed a set number of months – say, four – without a failed breath test. Compliance-based removal is recommended by road safety organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

It’s great that Kentucky legislators are concerned about fighting drunk driving. They should concentrate on measures that have been proven to work – like all-offender ignition interlock laws – to get the fastest results.