To make matters worse, if you have been involved in a vehicle accident that resulted in the death of another person, you may be charged with vehicular homicide, also called reckless homicide or vehicular manslaughter. In Illinois, vehicular manslaughter occurs when a person causes the death of another while operating a vehicle, including motor vehicles, snowmobiles, boats, or all-terrain vehicles, or if a death occurred by causing a vehicle to go airborne.
Even though you had no intention of killing anyone, if you are facing these charges, you need the best defense available as punishments are severe. If convicted, you could be sentenced to fines and imprisonment, restitution to the victim’s family, probation, community service, mandatory counseling, suspension of your driver’s license, and a permanent criminal record.
The seasoned Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. have extensive experience in all areas of homicide and know that there are aspects of a vehicular manslaughter charge, known in Illinois as a reckless homicide charge, that may lead to a dismissal or result in a lesser offense or penalty. We offer a free consultation to examine the issues in your case and determine what we can do to help fight for your rights and freedom.
Illinois classifies crimes that result in death without lawful justification as either murder or manslaughter. While murder involves a voluntary or intentional killing, manslaughter is unintentional and committed without premeditation or malice, but without justification. Illinois Criminal Code, Article 9, Section 9-3 deals with involuntary manslaughter.
To be considered involuntary manslaughter, the person must have “recklessly” performed the act(s) causing the death. “Recklessly” is defined as when the person “consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or that a result will follow,” and “that disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the situation.”
With reckless homicide, the death was a result of their reckless actions and therefore carries the same penalties as involuntary manslaughter. Charges are considered to be Class 3 felonies, which may be bumped up to Class 2 felonies if the incident involved the death of an unborn child, a family or household member, or if the homicide occurred in a school or construction zone or involved a peace officer. Another consideration is if the chain of events links the conduct of the defendant to the unintentional deaths of at least two victims. If there is a DUI involved and it is a drunk driver who causes the death, it will typically be charged as a Class 2 felony.
For a Class 3 felony, punishments are 2-5 yrs. in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
For a Class 2 felony, punishments are 3-7 yrs. in prison, up to $25,000 in fines, periodic imprisonment of 18 to 30 months, or probation or conditional discharge of up to 4 years and/or restitution.
While there is a possibility of probation, in cases in which there is a death, judges are often reluctant to give the offender probation.
To prove reckless homicide (also referred to as vehicular manslaughter), prosecutors must show that you acted recklessly and took substantial and unjustifiable risks that most people would consider likely to result in harm.
To get a conviction under Illinois law, the prosecutor must prove:
Vehicular manslaughter must be shown to be more than mere negligence. It has to be voluntary and not accidental, and total circumstances are considered to add up to recklessness. For example, if a person was not only speeding, but drag racing on a residential street where it is likely that children would be present, it would be considered reckless.
If alcohol is involved, Illinois law considers the state as having proven recklessness if the driver is found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or is too intoxicated to safely operate a motor vehicle at the time of the accident.
A common defense for a vehicular manslaughter case is that the act was accidental, as opposed to being a reckless act. If the defendant exercised reasonable care in his actions and the death was just an unfortunate accident, then it is not reckless.
Other potential defenses include:
In developing a defense, it is important to note the facts about what happened, such as weather conditions, time of day or night, and changes to the surrounding environment that might have contributed to the accident.
If you or a loved one is charged with vehicular manslaughter, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney you can find. Your case may seem impossible, but with skillful representation you have a chance. Remember, the law places a heavy burden on the government, and you have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The reckless homicide defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. Whether your criminal law case is seemingly straightforward or highly complicated, we can help. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process. We explain all elements and processes of the case and develop an effective defense strategy tailored to your specific circumstances. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.
Don’t delay — contact us for help today if you have been accused of reckless homicide at 630-305-0222. Our Illinois criminal defense lawyers represent clients in DuPage County, Cook County, Will County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, Illinois, and the greater Chicagoland area. We do not charge for initial consultations.