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DUI Manslaughter in Illinois

Updated on March 15, 2023 → Under

A motor vehicle is more than just a mode of transportation. An automobile can become a deadly device when operated by a negligent person. If you or a loved one have been accused of DUI manslaughter in Illinois call us today. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Dohman Law can help you understand your rights and legal options regarding vehicular manslaughter in Illinois.

What is a Reckless Homicide in Illinois?

Illinois courts treat most motor vehicle accidents as a matter of negligence. The person who is responsible for the auto accident is deemed at fault, or liable. Anyone who is injured or killed by the negligent driver can recover damages by filing a personal injury claim or wrongful death lawsuit. Since the party responsible didn’t intend to cause the accident, he or she isn’t charged with a crime.

However, sometimes even though the at-fault party didn’t intend the outcome, he or she is convicted. A driver who causes an auto accident causing the death of another person can be charged with reckless homicide. This is a Class 3 felony offense, which a prison sentence of 2 to 5 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Reckless homicide is often charged in motor vehicle crashes, resulting in a fatality. Combined with the requirement of the reckless action, the offense is found in the Criminal Code unlike other moving violations, which are found in the Vehicle Code. If you or a loved one has been charged with reckless homicide, contact the experienced Rolling Meadows vehicular manslaughter criminal defense attorneys at Dohman Law today for a free initial consultation.

How Long Do You Go to Jail for DUI Manslaughter in Illinois?

Illinois law is confusing when it comes to unintentional killings. Often, when a death results from another person’s negligent conduct, the offender might be charged with involuntary manslaughter. However, when a death results from negligent conduct involving a vehicle, the charge is called reckless homicide or vehicular homicide.

The criminal penalty for vehicular homicide ranges from two to five years in jail. The defendant may face more severe penalties if the negligent homicide offense is charged in combination with another offense, such as aggravated impaired driving, or if the crime occurs in a school zone where minor children are present.

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If the driver was impaired, they’re more likely to be charged with a Class 2 felony instead of a Class 3 felony. A Class 2 felony carries a jail term of up to seven years. However, for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) reckless homicide, defendants often face criminal penalties of up to 14 years in prison, and even up to 28 years in jail. Drivers who are charged with vehicular manslaughter with no DUI implications can also face enhanced prison sentences if there were aggravating factors, such as causing death in a construction zone or school zone.

What is the Difference Between Vehicular Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide?

Vehicular homicide is the reckless killing of another person through the operation of a vehicle. Vehicular homicide statutes are relatively new categories of criminal statutes that arose from state concerns about how to deal with the increase of motor vehicle-related deaths. Before the passing of these statutes, drivers used to be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Vehicular manslaughter charges aren’t limited to the death of a passenger. They can also include the death of a bystander, pedestrian, or another driver as well. Even where multiple drivers are involved in an accident, vehicular homicide can still be charged if any driver acted recklessly.

The exact actions of a driver that gives rise to vehicular homicide vary from state to state. In some states, mere negligence, which happens when a driver doesn’t act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would under the circumstances, is enough to support a vehicular homicide charge. In other states, the negligence must be “gross” or “criminal,” which is a higher standard than ordinary negligence. Gross negligence involves driving on the wrong side of the road, driving at excessively high speeds, or ignoring traffic lights and signs.

In some states, drivers may also be charged with vehicular manslaughter if they don’t abide by important safety statutes or other traffic laws that states have established are of paramount importance. If, for example, if a death occurs from a driver’s failure to service his or her vehicle or violation of a “no passing” sign, this results in a vehicular manslaughter charge. Similarly, many states explicitly include the failure of a driver to adhere to traffic rules related to school buses in their vehicular manslaughter statutes.

What is Involuntary Manslaughter in Illinois?

Involuntary manslaughter is a category of homicide, which involves the unlawful killing of another person. Although first-degree murder and second-degree murder involve the intentional killing of a person, involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional type of killing. Involuntary manslaughter is a serious offense, and the criminal penalties you might face are harsh.

Under Illinois law, involuntary manslaughter is the unjustified and unintentional killing of a person, when the defendant’s lawful or unlawful actions are likely to cause death or serious bodily injury to another individual. Thus, when a person performs dangerous negligent actions that cause the death of another person, that offender will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, unless if they were driving a vehicle. Involuntary manslaughter is a Class 3 felony offense, which is punishable by up to five years in jail. Actions that could cause involuntary manslaughter may include:

  • Fistfights
  • Throwing or dropping rocks from an overpass or bridge
  • Leaving a toddler play outside on the street unsupervised
  • Shooting a gun or storing a gun recklessly

What are the Criminal Penalties for Reckless Homicide?

A reckless homicide offense can be charged alone, or in combination with other charges. For instance, the prosecutor can charge you with reckless homicide and also aggravated drunk driving. Aggravated driving under the influence involving a fatality carries a sentence of 3 to 14 years in the penitentiary, and probation is possible only in exceptional circumstances.

There are certain circumstances where reckless homicide convictions carry enhanced penalties.

If, for instance, you committed reckless homicide on a public thoroughfare where minor children were going to and from school with a school crossing guard present, the reckless homicide offense is enhanced to a Class 2 felony which carries a sentencing range of 3 to 14 years of incarceration. The statute doesn’t require the person killed to be a school crossing guard or a child; it can be anyone. Here, it’s the location of the offense that causes the enhancement.

The criminal penalties for reckless homicide offense on a public thoroughfare with school children and a crossing guard present are doubled where the offender kills two or more persons. Thus, the defendant will be sentenced to 6-28 years in prison.

Review your defense options with our attorneys if you're accused of dui homicide in Illinois

If the reckless homicide offense occurs in a work zone or if the defendant refused or failed to comply with a lawful traffic control order from a traffic control aide or police officer, then the offense is a Class 2 felony, which carries 3-14 years of imprisonment.

Again, the criminal penalties are doubled for this offense if it occurs in a work zone or after failing or refusing to obey a traffic control order and if two or more people are killed. Thus, the defendant would face 6-28 years in the Department of Corrections.

If the defendant uses a motor vehicle, for instance, in an incline in a roadway such as a bridge approach, railroad crossing, or hill, and causes the vehicle to become airborne, the reckless homicide offense is a Class 2 felony, especially if two or more persons are killed. However, this is treated by the statute as an ordinary Class 2 felony offense, which carries standard penalties of three to seven years in jail.

Illinois law also enhances the penalty for reckless homicide depending on the status of the victim. Thus, if the vehicular homicide victim is a peace officer killed while performing his or her law enforcement duties. Here, the reckless homicide offense becomes a Class 2 felony, which carries 3-7 years of imprisonment. Further, if the victim of the offense is a household or family member of the defendant, then the offense is a Class 2 felony with a potential jail sentence of 3-14 years in the Department of Corrections.

There are many defense strategies that an experienced DUI manslaughter attorney can use to get your criminal charges of reckless homicide or vehicular manslaughter reduced or even dismissed. However, it’s essential to seek prompt legal representation from an experienced Cook County DUI manslaughter defense attorney.

After a motor vehicle accident, it’s essential for the underlying criminal homicide circumstances of the collision to be investigated promptly before critical evidence is lost or witnesses disappear. If our criminal defense team can convince the prosecutor can't prove the underlying criminal homicide charge, we may get the reckless homicide charges against you substantially reduced because your actions didn’t constitute sufficient recklessness to justify a criminal conviction.

Our Rolling Meadows DUI defense law firm provides a confidential consultation so that we can help you understand your legal options and potential defenses. Call us at (847) 616-9993 or chat with us to learn how we can help you.

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