Drunk Drivers in Louisville, Kentucky Acquitted More Often by Judges than Juries

When one thinks of a judge, images of a harsh, unrelenting, robe-wearing, gavel-yielding individual likely come to mind. So it may come as a surprise to hear that judges in Louisville, Kentucky appear to be more lenient on drunk drivers than a jury made up of the driver’s peers. According to the Courier-Journal, 73% of drunk drivers that have bench trials – trials decided only by a judge – are acquitted, while only 45% of drunk drivers that are tried by juries are acquitted.

At first glance, it may seem that one attorney has an in with three of the judges. In the last three years, he represented 30 clients in bench trials – mostly in front of the three judges – and all but three were acquitted. The attorney has contributed to all three of the judges’ political campaigns, but all four parties deny that has had any bearing on the DUI trials the judges have presided over where the defendants have gone free. According to one judge, “He’s completely changed the way I look at DUIs, honestly. He is very creative, very inventive. It just amazes me his ability to take a case and pick it apart.” The attorney attributes his success to his experience and his intense preparation before each case.

Many of the drunk drivers are acquitted on technicalities, one of the biggest being denied the chance to contact an attorney before taking a breathalyzer test. In Kentucky, a driver is allowed to have up to 15 minutes to contact an attorney before being tested at a jail. The drivers also should be given access to their cell phones during this time. It used to be that suspects were allowed only one phone call, but that has changed over the years. Drivers who have failed field sobriety tests, been caught driven erratically, and have even been tested at over two times the legal limit, have still been let go by judges because they weren’t given enough time to contact an attorney.

Another technicality that wins drunk drivers their freedom is if they are pulled over initially for something that is not illegal, then tested for alcohol. In one case, a man was driving down the center lane for half of a mile before police pulled him over. His alcohol level was twice the legal limit of .08 in Kentucky and he was unable to pass a field sobriety test. However, he was set free because officers had no reason to pull him over in the first place. Driving down the center line may be strange, but it is not illegal, so there was no reason for him to be pulled over in the first place.

One may wonder why a Kentucky personal injury attorney would be posting an article regarding the representation and acquittals of drunk drivers. Unfortunately, these drivers statistically are likely to drive drunk again, especially if they realize they have a high possibility of getting away with it. And the next time they drive drunk, they may injure or even kill themselves, their passengers, or someone else. Please do not drive drunk and run the risk of causing a serious or deadly car accident, no matter what the odds are of being acquitted.


Jefferson County judges more lenient than juries on DUI defendants; Courier-Journal; Jason Riley and Andrew Wolfson; December 2, 2012