Bill to crack down on habitual DUI offenders returns to Senate


FRANKFORT— A bill that could increase felony convictions for DUI in Kentucky by allowing the courts to “look back” at 10 years of prior convictions instead of five years has cleared the House.

Kentucky law requires those convicted of a fourth offense DUI within five years to be charged with a felony. The clock for determining penalties for offenders is reset after five years under current law. Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, would extend that so-called “look-back” period to 10 years to allow more habitual offenders to face stiffer penalties like felony charges.

The bill was amended by the House to fix what the bill’s House floor sponsor Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, called a technical error, then was passed by the House unanimously 98-0. The measure now returns to the Senate, where it had passed in January on a 35-1 vote, for that chamber to consider the change made to the bill by the House. Because SB 56 contains an emergency clause, it would take effect immediately if it becomes law.

Flood said 31 states currently have a DUI look-back period of at least 10 years. Four states, she said, have a lifetime look-back period for DUI.

The bill was filed by Parrett in honor of Elizabethtown High School graduate Brianna Taylor who was killed by a drunk driver in 2014 at age 17. Members of the House casting their votes on the bill spoke of how DUI has also impacted their lives, naming friends or family they know who have been injured or killed by drunk drivers.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said the timing of the debate on SB 56 coincided with the moment one year ago when his friend, Lexington attorney Mark Hinkel, 57, was hit and killed by an alleged drunk driver as Hinkel participated in a Central Kentucky bike race.

Hinkel’s alleged killer had up to nine previous DUI offenses—most occurring in the five years before Hinkel’s death, according to news reports on the case.

“Mark Hinkel was my friend, so I use him as an example. But there are many, many Mark Hinkels out there,” said Benvenuti. “They’re your friends, they’re your neighbors, they’re your family members.

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