It is not uncommon for intoxicated drivers to cause collisions, and many DUI related accidents are fatal. Thus, a person may not only be charged with a DUI crime but other, more serious, offenses. Whether a fatality caused by a drunk driving accident constitutes murder, however, is unsettled throughout the Nation. This issue was recently resolved in Nevada, though, where the Nevada Supreme Court set forth a ruling prohibiting prosecutors from charging people with second-degree murder for their involvement in DUI fatalities. While the ruling has no precedent in Illinois, it provides insight into how other courts view DUI cases involving deaths. If you were involved in a fatal DUI accident, it is in your best interest to speak with an Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.
The Nevada Ruling
It is reported that the Nevada Supreme Court recently issued an order requiring prosecutors to change the manner in which they handle DUI cases. Specifically, the court barred prosecutors from charging DUI defendants with second-degree murder. The ruling arose out of a matter in which the defendant reportedly caused a fatal crash while driving with marijuana in his system. The order, which was signed by seven justices, explained that while malice could be inferred from the facts out of which the charges arose and would support a second-degree murder charge, the legislature pre-empted such charges for matters involving unintentional vehicular homicide. It was noted that the ruling might inspire the legislature to impose stricter penalties on felony DUI cases involving deaths.
Charges for DUI Related Deaths in Illinois
In Illinois, a person can be charged with aggravated DUI (driving under the influence) if the individual was involved in an accident that resulted in a fatality. An aggravated DUI that results in the death of another person is a Class 2 felony. If only one person is killed in a DUI accident, the defendant faces a minimum sentence of three years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of fourteen years. If more than one person dies due to a DUI accident, an aggravated DUI sentence can range from six to twenty-eight years in prison.
It is possible for a person involved in a fatal DUI accident to be charged with reckless homicide as well, which is a Class 3 felony. Illinois law defines reckless homicide as the unintentional killing of a person while driving a vehicle. Thus, while a defendant may face significant charges for DUI related fatalities in Illinois, it is unlikely they can be charged with intentional homicide crimes.
Meet with a Trusted DUI Defense Attorney
Many DUI crimes are felonies, and a person convicted of such offenses may face significant penalties. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to determine your options. Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC, is a trusted Illinois DUI defense attorney with the skills and resources needed to defend people faced with DUI charges, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Harvatin through the form online or at 217.525.0520 to schedule a conference.