Articles Posted in Aggravated DUI

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Penalties assessed for a DUI conviction vary depending on the severity of the charge and any harm allegedly caused during the commission of the crime. In some states, such as Wisconsin, there is no mandatory minimum sentence for a driver that causes a fatal accident while intoxicated. This is poised to change, however, as there is pending legislation in Wisconsin that will impose a mandatory sentence of five years for DUI homicide. If the proposed Wisconsin legislation is approved and becomes a law, it will not have a direct impact on sentencing for fatal DUIs in Illinois but may spur the Illinois legislature to impose stricter minimum penalties. If you are a resident of Illinois and are charged with a DUI following a fatal accident it is critical to engage the services of an experienced Illinois DUI attorney to help you formulate a strong defense.

Penalties for DUI Related Fatalities in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, if a person causes a car accident while intoxicated and the accident results in a fatality, the person may be charged with DUI homicide. Currently, if a person is convicted of a DUI homicide in Wisconsin, they could face a maximum penalty of forty years in prison. There is no mandatory minimum sentence, though, which means that a person convicted of a DUI homicide could face little to no jail time. Pending legislation may change that, however, as it proposes to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. Critics of the bill are concerned that it takes discretion away from judges and ignores the individual facts of each case to enforce a blanket penalty.

Penalties for DUI Related Fatalities in Illinois

Illinois differs from Wisconsin in that there is a statutory mandatory minimum sentence for DUI related fatalities. In Illinois, if an intoxicated person causes a car accident that results in a fatality he or she can be charged with aggravated DUI, which is a Class 2 felony. If a person is convicted of an aggravated DUI for an accident that caused the death of one person, the mandatory minimum sentence is three years and the maximum sentence is fourteen years.

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In most states, if a motor vehicle collision caused by an intoxicated driver results in the death of one or more people, the intoxicated driver may be charged with a more serious crime than a simple DUI. Recently, a Texas court evaluated whether a person who causes an accident driving while intoxicated was properly found guilty of felony DUI with the use of a deadly weapon. While the court ultimately ruled that the evidence was not sufficient to uphold the deadly weapon charge, the court did not preclude a finding that a car could be considered a deadly weapon under certain circumstances. If you were involved in an alcohol-related fatal accident and are charged with aggravated DUI, it is critical to speak with a capable Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your available defenses.

Factual Background of the Texas Case

Reportedly, the defendant was driving on a road in Bryan, Texas, when the victim stepped in front of his car. The defendant’s car struck the victim, who was rendered unconscious. The defendant picked up the victim and placed him in his car, with the intention of taking him to the hospital. He got sidetracked, however, and was involved in an altercation which resulted in the police being called. Upon arrival, the police noticed that the victim was bloody and incoherent in the defendant’s car and questioned the defendant regarding what happened. The defendant stated that the victim stepped in front of his car, and he struck him. He also stated that he drank two “Four Loco” alcoholic beverages but refused to submit to field sobriety testing or a blood draw.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with felony driving while intoxicated and that the State sought a deadly weapon finding. The jury found the defendant guilty of driving while intoxicated and found that he used a deadly weapon, his car, during the commission of the crime. The defendant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the deadly weapon finding. On appeal, the court reversed as to the deadly weapon charge, on the grounds that there was no evidence that the defendant operated his car in a dangerous or reckless manner. Specifically, the court found that there was no evidence apart from the defendant’s intoxication to support the finding and under Texas law intoxication alone is not sufficient to support an inference that a defendant drove in a reckless or dangerous manner.
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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.