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Kentucky Criminal Law: An Overview

Regardless of whether you committed a crime or are a victim of one, you could benefit from learning about the Kentucky criminal laws that affect your case. They determine your rights as a criminal or victim and define the procedures and rules that govern criminal lawsuits.

Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about Kentucky’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a Kentucky criminal law attorney in Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green or elsewhere in the state.

Kentucky Capital Punishment

Unlike in many states, Kentucky only has one type of felony murder offense and its most severe penalty is the death sentence. Also known as capital punishment, the death penalty is executed using lethal injection (or, in rare cases, electrocution).

To receive the death sentence, the court must determine if a felon’s case possesses at least one aggravating factor. If the felon was a prisoner who killed a prison employee, that would be an aggravating factor to count toward the death sentence. However, the court must also consider any mitigating factors that negate the death penalty, such as if the felon committed the murder under duress from another person.

Kentucky Criminal Statute of Limitations

In some criminal cases, it’s important to act quickly if you plan on filing a lawsuit. Like every other state, Kentucky possesses its own criminal statute of limitations, which is a set of laws that limit the amount of time a plaintiff has following the commission of the crime until they’re no longer allowed to pursue legal recourse.

While many states set statutes of limitations for specific classes of offenses (or for specific offenses), Kentucky has a simplified statute of limitations. Legal action may be commenced:

  • At any time for felony offenses except as otherwise stated for certain cases.
  • Within one year for misdemeanors.
  • Within five years for misdemeanors involving a victim who, at the time of the offense, was a minor under 18 years of age.

Crime Classifications in Kentucky

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. Kentucky has two main classifications of criminal offenses: felonies and misdemeanors. There are also violations, which are both non-criminal and the least serious offenses.

To better understand the seriousness of each type of offense, Kentucky’s laws simply differentiate each classification by the types of penalties that may be sentenced:

  • Felonies are sentenced to years of confinement in a penitentiary, capital punishment (for murder offenses) and, sometimes, a fine.
  • Misdemeanors are sentenced to days, months or up to a year of confinement in an institute other than a penitentiary (such as county jail) and, most times, a fine.
  • Violations are sentenced only to fines or other penalties except for confinement.

Felonies and misdemeanors are broken down into several classes, each of which carries specific ranges of penalties. Each type of criminal offense is subdivided as:

  • Capital Felonies—These are murder felonies, which are punishable by death or life imprisonment.
  • Class A Felonies—20 to 50 years of imprisonment, or life imprisonment.
  • Class B Felonies—10 to 20 years of imprisonment.
  • Class C Felonies—Five to 10 years of imprisonment.
  • Class D Felonies—One to five years of imprisonment.
  • Class A Misdemeanors—90 days to one year of imprisonment.
  • Class B Misdemeanors—Less than 90 days of imprisonment.
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