Judges and prosecutors have distinct roles in the criminal justice system, and generally, they refrain from exercising powers outside of the scope of their authority. If they do overstep their bounds, however, it may lead to unexpected outcomes. For example, a prosecutor in North Dakota recently sued a judge, arguing that the judge violated the separation of powers by refusing to approve a plea deal that would have ignored one of the defendant’s prior DUI convictions. The lawsuit, which alleges that defendants convicted of fourth DUIs are subject to less stringent penalties than those convicted of third DUIs, seeks to remedy a perceived injustice. If you are charged with a third or subsequent DUI offense, it is smart to meet with a knowledgeable Illinois DUI defense attorney to assess your rights.
The North Dakota Case
It is reported that the North Dakota legislature recently increased the penalties for repeat DUI offenders. Specifically, a person convicted of a third DUI, which is a class A misdemeanor, faces a 120-day jail sentence, while a person convicted of a fourth DUI crime, which is a Class C felony, may be imprisoned for one year and one day. The prosecutor alleges that, essentially, sentences for fourth DUIs are paper penalties, in that parties convicted of such offenses spend significantly less time in prison than those convicted of lesser crimes.
Allegedly, the prosecutor attempted to subvert the sentencing deficiencies by entering into a plea agreement with a defendant that would have reduced the number of the defendant’s prior DUI convictions, which would have resulted in a lesser sentence on paper but arguably more time in prison. When the judge refused to adopt the plea agreement, the prosecution filed suit, arguing the judge violated the separation of powers. Continue reading →
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.
Historically, an individual arrested for DUI in Oklahoma automatically has his or her license suspended. The suspension process involves an administrative proceeding with the Department of Public Safety, while the DUI itself is handled by the criminal courts. After a first offense, a driver can have his license revoked for up to six months. But a September 2016 Oklahoma Supreme Court decision put a wrench in this practice — at least for the time being.
In a 7-2 ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision setting aside a license revocation based on problems with the Itoxilyzer 8000 breathalyzer.
A 28-year-old Sumner, Illinois resident was recently sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated DUI for the June 2014 car accident that killed her boyfriend. She was sentenced this month by Lake County Circuit Court Judge James Booras. Her prison sentence is periodic, meaning she will occasionally be released for treatment and medical services. Following her jail sentence, she will be required to serve four years of probation.
According to Waukegan police records, officers responded to a report that a car struck a utility pole at around 3 a.m. on June 28, 2014. According to witnesses, the driver was traveling at high speeds when she crashed into the pole on North Lewis Avenue. While her 24-year-old boyfriend was killed instantly, the crash also resulted in the driver losing both of her legs. She was immediately airlifted to a hospital in Libertyville, where she was announced to be in critical condition. No other cars were involved in the crash, and both the driver and her boyfriend were wearing seat belts.
After a jury trial, defendant Jeannine Jenkins was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Following Jenkins’ direct appeal, the Illinois Court of Appeals for the First District remanded the case to the trial court for a hearing on Jenkins’ pro se motion for a reduction of her sentence. On remand, the trial court denied the defendant’s motion. Jenkins appealed. The appeals court affirmed the judgment against the defendant in an unpublished opinion.
At trial, the evidence established that in April 2012, the defendant picked up her granddaughter from daycare. The daycare workers reported that the defendant was possibly intoxicated. The Palatine police were called and located the defendant within minutes. The defendant appeared to be under the influence. The defendant’s granddaughter was not strapped into a car seat and was “sitting loose” in the car. The defendant was arrested and charged with aggravated DUI. Following a jury trial, the defendant was found guilty of aggravated DUI.