DUI Manslaughter in Illinois

Updated on 01/13/2023 / Under

The criminal courts in Illinois treat most car accidents as a matter of negligence. The party who is responsible for the auto accident is considered at fault, or liable. Any person who is injured or killed by the at-fault party can recover damages in a civil action for wrongful death or personal injury. Since the at-fault driver didn't intend the outcome, he or she isn’t charged with a crime.

But sometimes, even though the person is responsible for the accident and caused unintentional killing, he or she is prosecuted. A drunk driver who causes an accident resulting in the death of another person can be charged with reckless homicide or manslaughter in Illinois. This criminal offense is a Class 3 felony offense, with a prison sentence ranging between 2 to 5 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Reckless homicide is frequently charged in auto accidents resulting in bodily injury or death. Combined with the requirement of reckless conduct, the criminal offense is found in the Criminal Code – unlike other moving violations, which are found in the Vehicle Code.

The experienced DUI criminal defense lawyers at our firm have extensive experience in all areas of DUI manslaughter. Also, our legal defense team knows that there are aspects of a vehicular manslaughter charge which are known as a reckless homicide charge in Illinois, that may cause a dismissal or result in a lesser sentence. For a no-cost initial consultation, contact our Chicago criminal defense law firm today at (630) 425-0250

What is Involuntary Manslaughter in Chicago, Illinois?

Involuntary manslaughter is a type of homicide that encompasses the unlawful killing of another individual. While 1st-degree murder and 2nd-degree murder is the intentional killing of a person, involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional form of killing. Involuntary manslaughter is a severe criminal offense, and the offender may face enhanced penalties.

Under Illinois law, involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional and unjustified killing of another person, when the defendant’s reckless actions are likely to cause death or catastrophic bodily injury to another person. Thus, when you perform dangerous negligent actions that cause the death of another individual, you'll be charged with involuntary manslaughter, unless if you were driving a motor vehicle. Involuntary manslaughter is categorized as a Class 3 felony offense in Illinois, which carries a jail sentence of up to five years in jail.

Learn More: How to Find the Right DUI Lawyer

How Long Can I Go to Jail for DUI Manslaughter in Chicago?

Illinois law is confusing concerning unintentional killings. Often, when a death occurs from another individual’s negligent conduct, the defendant could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. However, when a death occurs from negligent conduct involving a motor vehicle, the offender may be charged with reckless homicide or vehicular homicide charges.

The criminal penalty for reckless homicide ranges between 2-5 years in jail. The criminal offender may face harsher penalties if the negligent vehicular homicide offense is charged in combination with another criminal offense, such as aggravated drunk driving, or if the criminal offense occurs in a school zone where minor children are present.

DUI Manslaughter in Illinois

If the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol, they’re likely to be charged with a Class 2 felony offense rather than a Class 3 felony offense. A Class 2 felony offense is punishable by a jail term of up to seven years. However, for DUI manslaughter in Illinois, criminal offenders often face a prison sentence of up to 14 years in jail, and even up to 28 years in prison. Persons who are charged with vehicular manslaughter with no drunk driving implications can also face enhanced criminal penalties if there were aggravating factors, such as school or construction zone death. 

What is the Difference Between Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Manslaughter in Illinois?

Vehicular homicide is the reckless killing of another person while driving or operating a motor vehicle. Vehicular manslaughter charges aren’t always limited to the death of another person, such as a passenger. Also, they can include the death of a pedestrian, bystander, or another driver as well. Even in cases where multiple drivers are involved in an auto accident, vehicular homicide can still be charged if any of them acted recklessly.

The exact behaviors of drivers that give rise to vehicular homicide charges vary from state to state. In some states, mere negligence, which occurs when a driver doesn’t act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would under the circumstances, is enough to warrant a vehicular homicide charge. In other states, the negligence must be criminal or gross, which is a higher standard than mere negligence. Gross negligence includes driving at excessively high speeds, driving on the wrong side of the road, or ignoring traffic signs and lights.

In some states, a negligent driver may also be charged with a vehicular manslaughter charge if they ignore the important safety statutes or other traffic laws that the state has established that are of paramount importance. If, for instance, if an unintentional death occurs after a driver doesn't service his or her vehicle or violation of a “no passing” sign, these negligent actions result in a charge of vehicular manslaughter. Similarly, many states explicitly include drivers' failure to obey traffic rules related to school buses in their vehicular manslaughter statutes.

There are many effective defense strategies that an experienced defense attorney can use to get your criminal charges of reckless homicide or vehicular manslaughter dismissed or reduced. However, it’s essential to seek qualified legal representation from an experienced Cook County DUI criminal defense attorney.

After a motor vehicle crash, it’s crucial for the exceptional circumstances of the collision to be investigated promptly before key evidence is lost or witnesses disappear. If our reputable Chicago criminal defense team can determine that the prosecution can't prove the underlying criminal homicide charge, we can help you get your reckless homicide charges reduced because your actions didn’t constitute sufficient recklessness to justify a conviction for manslaughter.

Our Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys have helped thousands of drivers facing DUI manslaughter charges in DuPage County, Cook County, Lake County, Kane County, Hancock County, and throughout Illinois and we can help you, too. Contact our Chicago DUI defense law firm today at (630) 425-0250 for a free and confidential consultation. Contact us today to learn about your legal options and potential defenses.