Melanie’s Law Increases Penalties For Kentucky Drunk Drivers

July 18 2023 | Kentucky Car Accident Lawyer Blog
  • Melanie's Law Kentucky DUI

    Melanie’s Law in effect as of July 1, 2023

    On April 4th, 2023, Governor Andy Beshear signed Senate Bill 268 titled ‘AN ACT relating to financial support of a child or dependent after driving under the influence.’

    In summary, this law allows a judge to require someone that was convicted of a DUI which resulted in a disability or death of a parent or guardian to financially support the children of the victim.

    This law is further known as Melanie’s Law.

    The Background of Melanie’s Law

    Melanie Hull, a dedicated mother and the woman that inspired this law, was involved in a car crash on July 1, 2022. As Melanie was on her way towards Louisville to drop her 8-year-old son off at daycare, they were struck by an alleged drunk driver who ran a red light.

    The incident happened in Middletown and resulted in 18 of Hull’s bones breaking due to the impact of the crash.

    Since the incident, Melanie has suffered through continuous treatment and requires constant care. With about a year passing since the incident, Hull is still residing in a nursing home with permanent brain damage stemming from the crash.

    The son in the car, 8-year-old Nolan, had his mother as he knew it taken from him and permanently changed due to the negligence of a potentially impaired individual – and Melanie had her life indefinitely altered.

    DUI Laws

    Nationally, there are laws in place that prohibit individuals from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

    For alcohol, typically a blood test or a breath test (BRAC) is used to determine whether a person is legally impaired or not. If an individual tests and has a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08 or above, they are above the legal limit and could be arrested and charged if they are driving or behind the wheel of a vehicle with the keys in the ignition.

    For drugs, many states have zero-tolerance laws in place, while others simply just prohibit it and determine the basis of their charges in different ways. For the states that have zero-tolerance laws, a person can be charged with a DUI if they have any amount of drug substance in their blood or urine upon testing. Other states are waiting until further research can define blood levels from drug use that indicate impairment better, similar to the tests used to determine alcohol impairment.

    Regardless of the state or the law, it is illegal and irresponsible to drive when you are under the influence (or impaired) by drugs and/or alcohol.

    Drug-Related Driving Facts

    Different drugs effect drivers in different ways. Some can slow reaction time and reduce coordination, such as marijuana. Others can cause aggression and recklessness (i.e. cocaine or methamphetamine), or drowsiness and impaired judgement, which are symptoms of certain prescription drugs. Regardless of the drug, legal or not, most have side effects that alter the way a driver would operate a vehicle if they had not taken them.

    Even though many studies show the negative impacts that taking drugs has on driving, some people still do it and can result in a catastrophic affect. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 13.5 million people aged 16+ drove under the influence and 11.7 million drove under the influence of certain illicit drugs, such as marijuana, in 2021.

    Additionally, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 43.6% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs in 2016, with over half of them being positive for more than one. A further breakdown in the report showed 38% tested positive for marijuana, 16% tested positive for opioids, and 4% tested positive for both.

    As stated, being under the influence of drugs alters your brain and body – how it does that depends on the drug and on the person taking the drugs. Regardless, common symptoms include impaired focus, slowed reaction time, drowsiness, dizziness, impaired decision making, increased risk taking, and aggression. If a driver is undergoing even one of these symptoms, they are more likely to cause an accident than someone who is sober.

    Alcohol-Related Driving Facts

    Alcohol-related injuries are all too common, especially those that happen when an impaired driver decides to get behind the wheel and injures someone else and/or them self. Drunk driving is illegal across the nation, yet the National Highway Safety Administration reports that on average there is one person killed every 45 minutes due to a drunk driving-related incident.

    Alcohol typically impairs a person’s ability to do and act in reasonable manner. Symptoms consistently include drowsiness, rash thinking and decision-making, reduced reaction time, impaired vision, a lack of muscle coordination, and an overall lower cognitive capacity. Although most people understand the risk to drunk driving, there are some people who still choose to start the car and go.

    Along with known facts and risks, there are many common myths people associate with drinking (and driving). A few include:

    • Beer doesn’t affect me like other alcohol does.
    • If I eat, the alcohol won’t affect me.
    • The only risk of drinking is a hangover.
    • Drugs are worse than drinking.

    First of all, alcohol is alcohol, whether it is beer or liquor, the effects are similar. Second, drinking on a full stomach may help, but it does not prevent anything. Third, drinking can cause many health problems beyond dehydration and headaches, especially if you choose to drive and get in a car wreck. And lastly, alcohol and tobacco kill over 50 times the amount of people all illegal drugs combined do – neither is better than the other.

    In 2021, 2,266 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a BAC within the legal limit, but not zero. Furthermore, about 31% of all traffic crash fatalities in the US involved drunk drivers (BAC of .08+), with 13,384 people being killed – averaging out to around one person killed every 39 minutes.

    In Kentucky alone, about 17% of all highway fatalities are caused by a drunk driver. In 2019, 150 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving incidents, which accounted for 20.5% of the total fatalities that year.

    Whether someone has a few beers, or takes a few shots, if they drive and have a BAC of .08 or more, they are driving while impaired. By choosing to do so, they are putting themselves and everyone else in their path at risk.

    A Step Forward

    Melanie’s Law went into effect on July 1, 2023. Now, in Kentucky, when an impaired driver causes a wreck that results in someone being fatally injured or permanently disabled, the judge on the case has the right to order that person to financially support any children the injured person has or is the guardian of.

    A similar law was signed in Tennessee on July 7, 2022, titled Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law. This law was passed in honor of a surviving son whose brother, mother, and father were killed by a drunk driver and the two surviving kids of a Tennessee police officer who was also killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run.

    The difference between the two laws lies in the KY law, Melanie’s Law, which included this type of financial support if the victim is permanently disabled – the TN law only requires it if the victim is fatally injured.

    Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has continued to fight for laws like these across the nation. MADD is an organization that has constantly advocated for all people who have been a victim of drunk driving, in addition to their efforts of spreading awareness to prevent all impaired driving. With both of these bills being signed into law within a year of each other, executives within the organization believe it is a step in the right direction, towards preventing all impaired driving.

    Fair Compensation

    Regardless of all of the risks and warnings that are consistently dispersed nationally and worldwide, some people will still choose to drive while under the influence.

    If you are injured by a drunk driver, you don’t have to handle it alone. In addition to the criminal charges that could potentially be applied to the person who hit you, you may have the right to be compensated for your losses. When a person is involved in any type of car wreck, the financial burden can create a stressful situation for the victim. Medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage costs are just a few of the damages that an injured person can recover after a car accident.

    In addition, if you have a loved one who was fatally injured by an impaired driver, although no compensation will offset the pain of your loss, you may have the right to file a wrongful death claim.

    Get it Done

    Our team at Hughes & Coleman has seen the horrifying effects someone who chooses to drive while impaired can have on others. Whether they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, choosing to drive while impaired is morally and legally unacceptable.

    We have a team of experienced wrongful death lawyers who will fight to get you the compensation you deserve if you lost a loved one due to a drunk driver.

    In addition, we have a team of car accident attorneys who have successfully represented individuals that were injured by an impaired driver across Kentucky and Tennessee for decades.

    In fact, our Bowling Green car accident lawyers just recently successfully secured a $500k Settlement for a pedestrian who was struck by an impaired driver while walking along the road. Our team also secured a $207.8k Settlement for a client who was hit in a head-on crash by an individual who was under the influence.

    The dedicated attorneys at Hughes & Coleman have the experience needed to fight for the rights of injured victims no matter the circumstances. While you focus on healing from your injuries or from the pain of losing a loved one, let us handle the insurance company and get you the compensation you deserve.

    Call 800-800-4600 for a free consultation. We are available 24/7.

    Get Hughes & Coleman and Get it Done.



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