LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Harsher penalties will now be in place for repeat drunk driving offenders in Kentucky. It's all a part of a law that was passed last year but was just upheld by the Supreme Court of Kentucky on Thursday.
The family of Mark Hinkel hugged after lawmakers passed a bill toughening Kentucky's DUI laws.
In 2016, the legislature expanding the period prosecutors can look back for previous DUI convictions from five years to 10. One of the many families who testified about the need for the law was relatives of Lexington attorney Mark Hinkel. He was killed while riding in Scott County during the Horsey Hundred in May of 2015.
"Mark's death was a horrific thing, and it should have never happened," his wife, Mary-Lynn Hinkel said.
The driver who hit him, Odilon Paz Salvador, had nine previous DUI's. Paz Salvador recently entered a guilty plea on several charges including murder.
"When he was arrested he used multiple identities, so his record would have been under multiple names. So would it have caught him? I don't know. How do we know it was him? The prosecutors went and pulled the arrest pictures from when he was picked up for DUI's, and they were him."
The Hinkle family testified along with dozens of other families to get Kentucky lawmakers to change the law. That law passed in 2016. However, two defendants who entered guilty pleas in Warren County challenged the law. A circuit court judge in Warren County ruled that using prior offenses more than five years old to enhance the penalty for their 2016 offense would violate contractual rights in their plea agreements. On Thursday, the supreme court disagreed saying the state can retroactively impose the 10-year period, even when that includes plea agreements.
The Hinkle family was thrilled to hear justices upheld the law.
"They know when their five-year period is up, then they start right back and would be arrested again. I know it's hard for people to understand, but people do manipulate the system. So when you make that ten years, it is going to be very hard for people to stay out on the roads and drive drunk."