Saturday, March 1, 2003

Enhanced DUI penalty upheld

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A law enhancing the penalty for drunken drivers with blood alcohol levels more than double the legal limit - even first offenders - is constitutional, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The court rejected a defendant's claim that the law's standard for an enhanced penalty - a 0.18 blood alcohol level - was arbitrary. He also said the law penalized drivers who submitted to blood alcohol tests and did not apply to drivers intoxicated on other substances.

Under Kentucky law, a motorist is presumed intoxicated at a 0.08 blood-alcohol level. The appeal was by Steve Whitehouse, who was charged in 1999 with first-offense drunken driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.18.

Whitehouse entered a conditional guilty plea and challenged the law's constitutionality. Whitehouse was sentenced to two days in jail and fined $200. He appealed to Marion County Circuit Court, which upheld the penalty enhancement.

Writing for the appeals court, Judge Wilfrid Schroder of Covington noted that the Kentucky Supreme Court earlier upheld the enhanced penalty for third-offense drunken drivers and declared that the 0.18 standard is not arbitrary.

Schroder also said the General Assembly "has the discretion to single out alcohol from other intoxicating substances for penalty enhancement purposes."

Judges Matthew Baker of Bowling Green and Daniel Guidugli of Newport joined in the ruling.

The court also upheld the dismissal of a suit against Paxton Media Group by a worker injured in a fall from a Paxton television tower in Ballard County. The appellant claimed the tower's ladder lacked a mandatory safety device.

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