Illinois has a reckless homicide law. 720 ILCS 5/9-3 In its simplest terms, reckless homicide involves doing something grossly dangerous and stupid that causes the death of another person, even if unintended. A classic case would be randomly firing a gun into a crowd.
The reckless homicide law formerly provided that “in cases involving reckless homicide, being under the influence of alcohol or any other drug or drugs at the time of the alleged violation shall be presumed to be evidence of a reckless act unless disproved by evidence to the contrary” In other words, if you were driving drunk and someone died in a crash, you were assumed to be guilty of reckless homicide.
A criminal offense is broken down into what are known as “elements’ of the crime. “Elements” means that if facts A and B are proven, the defendant is guilty of C.
The state has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, each element of the crime. The problem with the reckless homicide law as pertains to drunk driving is that it required the defendant (the accused) to disprove one of the elements, namely, that his conduct was reckless. This improperly shifted the burden of proof to the defendant and is unconstitutional. People v. Pomykala, 203 Ill. 2d 198, 784 N.E.2d 784, 271 Ill. Dec. 230 (2003)
In response to this, the DUI law was changed. Today, there are various offenses that fall under the category of “aggravated DUI”. 625 ILCS 11-501(d) Aggravated DUI is always a felony and in some circumstances, the penalties for that offense are enhanced beyond the maximums that would otherwise apply.
Thus, a driver is guilty of aggravated DUI if, in committing the offense of DUI (Driving Under the Influence), the driver was involved in an accident that resulted in the death of another person, so long as the act of driving under the influence was the “proximate cause” of the death. The prosecutor is required to prove that the act of driving under the influence caused the death, which renders the law constitutional. People v. Winningham, 391 Ill.App.3d 476 (4th Dist. 2009)
Another aggravated DUI circumstance arises if the driver committed DUI and had been previously convicted of reckless homicide in the operation of a motor vehicle. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(d) A person in that situation is guilty of a felony.
The General Assembly has also chosen to pile on additional driver’s license sanctions for those who are convicted of aggravated DUI involving death, or who were convicted under the old reckless homicide law and later commit the offense of driving revoked.
Anyone who has been convicted of reckless homicide/aggravated DUI with death must wait for two years following their release from jail or prison before they may apply for any type of driving privileges. The applicant must provide evidence of the date of their release and any conditions of probation or parole upon making application for a license to the Illinois Secretary of State. 625 ILCS 5/6-208(b)(1)
A person who was previously convicted of reckless homicide and who is later convicted of a driving revoked is looking at a three-year driver’s license revocation for a first offense. A second offense carries a five-year revocation and a third offense results in a revocation for ten years. Four or more convictions for driving revoked after a reckless homicide conviction means you may never drive again.