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What is a DUI look-back period?

Most people know that a second DUI can only multiply both the criminal and personal consequences individuals face after a first DUI offense. After all, the penalties individuals face often depend on whether or not they have prior DUIs.

However, a prior DUI might not always count as a first offense, depending on the length of the state’s look-back period.

How does a look-back period work?

A look-back period determines how long a DUI charge and conviction remain on an individual’s driving record. Even though the criminal charges remain on an individual’s criminal record, there are quite a few benefits to a look-back period, including:

  • After the look-back period has passed, the first DUI offense on an individual’s driving record would not count as their first offense;
  • Therefore, if an individual faces a DUI charge after the look-back period has passed, this charge will be considered a first offense; and
  • This only allows prosecutors and judges to consider offenses that occurred within the look-back period when determining whether an individual is, in fact, facing a second DUI charge.

Look-back periods vary significantly by state. For example, some states like Texas and Florida have lifetime look-back periods. Kentucky’s look-back period does not last an individual’s lifetime, but lawmakers did significantly extend the period in the last few years.

Kentucky’s look-back period doubled in 2016

In 2016, Kentucky’s look-back period changed when then Gov. Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 56 into law. This law doubled the look-back period for DUIs, extending it from five years to ten years. It also allows the state to apply the ten-year look-back period retroactively.

This extension could cause a ten-year-old DUI from 2010 to create a significant issue for individuals charged with a DUI even now in 2020, potentially leading to the the enhanced penalties of a second DUI offense, which could include:

  • One year attending alcohol abuse treatment;
  • 12 to 18 months with a suspended driver’s license;
  • Paying fines between $300 and $500;
  • Serving anywhere from seven days to six months of jail time; and
  • Using an ignition interlock device for six months after license suspension.

This extended look-back period can significantly increase the penalties that individuals charged with a DUI could face, and they must be aware of this increased risk when fighting DUI charges.