Illinois Reckless (Vehicular) Homicide Laws and Penalties

A motorist who causes the death of another person while jumping a car or driving recklessly might face reckless homicide charges.

In Illinois, there are two types of “reckless homicide” (sometimes called “vehicular homicide”). The first type involves causing the death of another person while recklessly driving in a manner that’s likely to cause death or “great bodily injury.” And the second type involves killing another person while using an incline in a roadway—such as a railroad crossing, hill, or bridge approach—to jump a car.   

Recklessness. A person acts recklessly by doing—or failing to do—something that poses a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm to another while consciously disregarding such risk. In other words, the person is aware the conduct is likely to result in serious injury or death to someone else but decides to do it anyway.

Causation. A motorist can’t be convicted of reckless homicide unless there’s proof that the motorist’s driving was a legal cause of the death. In other words, there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s driving and the death.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/9-3 (2017); People v. Barham, 337 Ill.App.3d 1121 (2003).)

Reckless Homicide Penalties

The consequences of an Illinois reckless homicide conviction depend on the circumstances. But here are some of the possible penalties:

  • Standard reckless homicide offenses. Generally, reckless homicide is a class 3 felony. Convicted motorists typically face two to five year in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

  • Reckless homicide offenses involving aggravating circumstances. A reckless homicide conviction is a class 2 felony and may carry enhanced penalties if the offense involves certain aggravating circumstances. For example, reckless homicide is an aggravated offense if committed in a school-crossing or construction zone, more than one person died, or one of the victims who died was an on-duty law enforcement officer. Depending on which aggravating circumstances are involved, aggravated reckless homicide carries three to 28 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

All drivers convicted of reckless homicide are looking at least a two-year license revocation.

(625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/6-205, 5/6-208 (2017); 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/9-3 (2017); 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-4.5-35, 5/5-4.5-40, 5/5-4.5-50 (2017).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior, “suspended” sentences, and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney

Reckless homicide is a serious criminal charge that can result in a long prison sentence. If you’ve been arrested for reckless homicide—or any other crime—get in contact with a criminal defense attorney right away. The facts of every case are different. An experienced defense attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best plan of action.

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