Articles Posted in Aggravated DUI

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In most if not all states, a DUI is a misdemeanor charge. Many states, however, also allow the state to increase the severity of a DUI charge and penalties if certain factors are present. In cases where driving under the influence of alcohol results in an accident that causes bodily injury or death, a defendant may face severe penalties far more substantial than typically imposed for a DUI charge.

For example, in a recent California case, a 26-year-old woman was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to thirty years to life in prison following an alcohol-related accident that resulted in the death of six people. If you are accused of aggravated DUI you should consult an Illinois DUI attorney to assist you in formulating a defense.

Factual Background of the California Accident

Allegedly, the driver was driving a Camaro 100 miles an hour in the wrong direction on a California highway in 2014 when she crashed into a Ford Explorer, which then struck a third car. The driver’s sister and best friend were passengers in her car. Several people were ejected from both the Camaro and the Explorer, and only the driver and the driver of the third car survived. The driver’s blood alcohol level was calculated to be .15% three hours after the accident. The driver had previously been convicted of a DUI and warned about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol. Her license, which was suspended following her previous DUI conviction, was reinstated just one week before the crash. She was charged with six counts of second-degree murder, to which she plead no contest. She was subsequently sentenced to thirty years to life in prison.

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Under Illinois DUI law, whether a DUI is charged as a misdemeanor or felony depends in part on whether any enhancing factors exist such as whether the defendant committed any prior violations of the DUI statute. While the Supreme Court of Illinois has definitively stated a previous conviction of the DUI is not necessary to prove a defendant committed a violation, it has not defined the scope of what evidence is admissible to establish a violation. While it is not precedential, in State v. Hastey the Maine Supreme Court recently held that extrinsic evidence outside of a DUI charge or conviction is admissible as evidence of an enhancing factor in charging a defendant with an aggravated DUI. If you face DUI charges and were previously charged with DUI, an experienced Illinois DUI attorney can help you determine what evidence the state may attempt to introduce against you and assist you in formulating a defense.

Facts of the Case

Purportedly, in Hastey, the defendant was charged with aggravated criminal OUI. Under Maine law, a person commits aggravated criminal OUI if he or she operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants and has a prior criminal homicide conviction resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants.

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A man was killed in a car crash caused by a driver who huffed 1,1-difluoroethane, or DFE, immediately before and while driving. Based on her prior history of becoming unconscious after huffing DFE, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that her conduct constituted the high level of recklessness required for a finding of malice sufficient to support her convictions of third-degree murder and aggravated assault. It therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision. This decision may be relevant to Illinois drug DUI cases in the event that the courts in this state consider a similar situation.

The Commonwealth charged the driver with numerous offenses, including aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault while DUI, homicide by vehicle, third-degree murder, and homicide by vehicle while DUI.

At her October 2014 jury trial, the evidence showed that the driver and her then-fiance drove to a Walmart store. They purchased two cans of Dust-Off and some other items and then returned to the car. (Dust-Off contains DFE, a colorless gas commonly used as a refrigerant or as a propellant for aerosol sprays and in gas duster products.) Before exiting the parking lot, she opened the Dust-Off, and both she and her ex-fiance huffed.