A DUI murder charge is one of the most serious crimes involving a motor vehicle. In Illinois, there are several ways that you can be charged with a DUI involving the death of an individual. If you have committed the offense of driving under the influence and someone has died as a result of your driving, then you can be charged with an Aggravated DUI or otherwise known as a felony DUI.
You can be charged with second-degree murder reckless homicide if you have been drinking and driving and you cause an accident where an individual dies.
What Charges Will You Face?
Generally, a motorist who causes the death of another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will face felony DUI charges. Generally, someone charged with a DUI will face a class A misdemeanor offense, however, in cases involving the death of another individual, a first-time DUI can be a Class 2 felony.
Furthermore, you can also face the charges of reckless homicide and second-degree murder if you have been suspected of drinking and driving and you have been in an automobile accident involving the death of another person. Reckless homicide is a class 3 felony offense in Illinois. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you face these charges.
Aggravated DUI Involving Death
In Illinois, if you have been drinking and driving and you have been involved in an automobile accident, you can and likely will be charged with a Felony DUI. Under Illinois law, if you drive or are in actual physical control of any motor vehicle while your blood alcohol concentration is a .08 or above and you're involved in an accident that resulted in the death of another person and you’re drinking and driving was the proximate cause of the other person's death than you will be charged with a class 2 felony offense.
It is important to remember that even if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or you are under the influence of any drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol you can still be charged with an aggravated DUI.
Furthermore, if you are facing a Chicago DUI investigation, and another person has died as a result of the accident, the police will likely get a warrant to draw your blood. For more information about forced blood draws please see the article attached ( forced blood article).
Aggravated DUI Death defenses
When charged with an Aggravated DUI or a DUI murder case, the prosecutor needs to prove that your drinking and driving was the proximate cause of that person's death. To put it simply, the prosecutor needs to prove that the person would not have died if you were not drinking and driving.
The prosecutor needs to show the judge or jury that the reason that someone else died is that your drunk driving caused the accident. For example, if you were driving and someone else crashed into your car, you would not be the proximate cause of the injury and therefore you would have a valid defense to the Aggravated DUI death charge.
If you are charged with a DUI in Illinois generally you are facing a misdemeanor offense. However, under Illinois law, there are certain DUI enhancements that make a DUI a Felony. In Illinois a DUI is enhanced to a felony if:
You have at least two prior DUI convictions
You are driving a school bus with one or more passengers on board
You were involved in a car accident which resulted in great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement
You were speeding in a 20 mph zone and involved in a car accident in which bodily harm other than great bodily harm occurred
You were involved in a motor accident that caused death to another and you were the proximate cause of that death
You were driving on a suspended license and your license was suspended for DUI, reckless driving, or similar offenses
You were driving when your vehicle was not covered by liability insurance
You were driving with a passenger under the age of 16 and that person gets hurt
You have a previous DUI conviction and you are transporting a passenger under the age of 16.
You were transporting one or more people in a vehicle for hire (i.e. cab driver, uber driver, lift)
Punishment for Aggravated DUI Death or DUI Murder Punishment
If you have been charged with Aggravated DUI death in Illinois you will be facing a class 2 felony. Normally a class 2 felony is punishable by 3 to 7 years in Illinois. With the charges of Aggravated DUI Death, a defendant is extendable for a longer prison term of up to 14 years if the DUI resulted in the death of one person.
If the aggravated DUI resulted in the death of two or more people the court must impose a prison term of 6 years to 28 years. A judge cannot sentence you to probation unless the court determines that there are extraordinary circumstances that exist and require probation.
Vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter in Illinois
In Illinois, if you have been involved in an auto accident after drinking and driving the prosecution can also charge you with vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter. The proper term for this is called reckless homicide.
When a person unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification, that person commits reckless homicide if the cause of the death consists of driving a motor vehicle or operating a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or watercraft.
It is important to note that you can still be charged with vehicular homicide if you have not been drinking. The prosecutor merely needs to show that you were driving a car recklessly and that your reckless driving was the reason someone was killed in order to charge you with reckless homicide.
In Illinois a person who unintentionally kills an individual without legal justification commits involuntary manslaughter if their act that caused the death were likely to cause death or great bodily harm to someone and that person performed those acts recklessly.
The key difference between Manslaughter and Reckless homicide is that manslaughter does not involve the use of a motor vehicle. Both manslaughter and reckless homicide are often attributed to gross negligence from the offending party.
Punishments for Reckless Homicide and Involuntary Manslaughter.
In Illinois, involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide are both class three felonies which are generally punishable by a minimum of 2 years in prison and a maximum of 5 years in prison. Depending on the circumstances, the punishment can be enhanced. Below is a list of factors that can enhance the jail time for Reckless Homicide and involuntary Manslaughter
Reckless homicide on a public roadway where children pass going to and from school and a school crossing guard is performing official duties is a class 2 felony punishable by 3-14 years in prison.
Reckless homicide on a public roadway where children pass going to and from school and a school crossing guard is performing official duties and two or more people die is a class 2 felony punishable by 6-28 years in prison.
Reckless homicide when the defendant is speeding in a construction zone when workers are present; or when the defendant refuses to obey the instructions of a peace officer is a class 2 felony punishable by 3-14 years in prison.
Reckless homicide when the defendant is speeding in a construction zone when workers are present; or when the defendant refuses to obey the instructions of a peace officer and kills two or more people is a class 2 felony punishable by 3-14 years in prison.
Reckless homicide when the defendant drove a vehicle and used an incline in a roadway to cause the vehicle to become airborne and caused the deaths of 2 or more people, the penalty is a Class 2 felony punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison.
In cases where the victim of Involuntary Manslaughter is a police officer, the penalty is a class 2 felony punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison.
Reckless Homicide when the defendant did not yield to an emergency vehicle and that act resulted in the death of an individual is a class 2 felony which is punishable by 3 to 14 years.
Reckless Homicide when the defendant did not yield to an emergency vehicle and that act resulted in the death of two or more individuals is a class 2 felony which is punishable by 6 to 28 years.
In cases where the victim of Involuntary Manslaughter is a family or household member, the penalty is a class 2 felony punishable by 3 to 14 years in prison.
If you are facing a DUI murder charge as a result of driving under the influence, you do not have to fight these serious charges alone. You have the right to retain the help of an aggressive and experienced DUI attorney.
At Ktenas Law, our criminal defense attorneys have successfully defended people like you who have been accused of DUI murder. We can help you, too. Contact us today so that we can help you overcome this difficult situation.