Illinois criminal courts are not lenient with defendants who have broken the same law or laws multiple times. Charges following an accident caused by a drunk driver with a DUI history are likely to include the term "aggravated," which significantly increases the severity of charges and penalties upon conviction.
A mid-state man will spend the next two dozen years behind bars, serving concurrent 24- and 14-year terms for aggravated DUI and possessing a stolen vehicle. The Mattoon, Coles County, defendant had three prior arrests for driving under the influence and eight earlier arrests for unlicensed driving.
The 29-year-old defendant was driving a stolen truck through Mattoon in December 2011 when he crashed into a car, killing the driver. State police suspected intoxication. A blood alcohol test registered above 0.19 percent, well over the Illinois limit of 0.08 percent.
The crash took place days before the defendant was set to be incarcerated for a different crime.
Although several accident-related charges were filed initially, the defendant eventually ended up pleading guilty to only two offenses. Along with prison time, the defendant was ordered by a Charleston judge to enter an alcohol abuse treatment program and pay $5,500 restitution to the owner of the truck that was stolen.
Wrongful death plaintiffs may have a clear-cut case; however, even the most lock-tight liability claims have nowhere to go when a defendant lacks assets. When an insurer is involved, which is often the case, policy limits may determine the damages a plaintiff receives. Almost everyone has at least some assets of value that may be forfeited to satisfy a judgment.
Remember, accidents may involve more than one defendant or insurer. An accident claim may appear to be a financial dead-end, until an attorney assesses the case.
Plaintiffs must weigh the costs of litigation, including the personal time and effort involved, before deciding - with legal guidance - whether action is justifiable.
Source: The News-Gazette, "Man gets 24 years after fatal wreck" No author given, Dec. 30, 2013