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Illinois man convicted of DUI crash also faces liability suit

Not everyone can drive, but anyone can be a motor vehicle accident victim. Cook County negligent drivers don't think about the safety of other motorists or passengers before they engage in careless behavior. People who choose to drink or use drugs and drive endanger everyone in their way, adults and children alike.

An 11-year-old boy was killed last year. The boy was a passenger in car that was stopped in traffic when the vehicle was struck from behind. The at-fault driver was an admitted drug user.

The Sycamore driver was charged with aggravated DUI, not for alcohol intoxication but for the heroin in his system. The man's defense attorney argued his client was not visibly impaired at the time of the fatal car accident and used the drug the previous day. Under Illinois law, it doesn't matter when an illegal drug enters a driver's system -- the drug's presence in the body is enough to hold a defendant responsible.

The defendant chose to enter a "cold" guilty plea, which bypasses any deal with prosecutors and allows a judge to determine the sentence. In this case, the judge could have sent the man to prison for 14 years but chose a 12-year term instead, a punishment that had the approval of the boy's family.

Reports said the driver never braked before slamming into the back of the car in which the boy was sitting. The defendant must serve nearly 10 years of the sentence to satisfy state law, with credit for time served since the Route 64 crash. The boy's family has filed a wrongful death case for damages.

Defendants' apologies may or may not be accepted, but they do nothing to help accident victims or their families recover financially. Civil courts offer a practical form of justice through compensation, so plaintiffs receive some comfort for their losses.

Source: Daily Herald, "Addict gets 12 years in crash that killed 11-year-old Sycamore boy" Harry Hitzeman, Mar. 26, 2014

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