Articles Posted in Reckless Homicide

800px-Englewood_Chicago_1Chicago has struggled to get rid of its reputation as the murder capital of the world. Some would argue that Johannesburg in South Africa and some cities in Middle East would give Chicago a run for its money. However the reality is that there are far too many homicides in the state. It is almost always a narrative of poor choices, deprived backgrounds, and a criminal justice system that is hard-pressed to cope with the epidemic. Malik Causey is a case in point. Starting with petty theft and teenage rebellion; he ended up in a gang and was soon shot by a rival. His mother Monique Causey describes how she desperately wanted the police to arrest her son in order to keep him off the streets, and by extension the gangs that he had admired so much in his teenage years and then proceeded to join with disastrous consequences.

Although touching in its own right, this case is just one of the 91 homicides that were committed during August of 2016 within Chicago. This has been described as the deadliest month within the city for nearly 20 years. The current annual increase in homicides stands at 46% by some estimates. Chicago is way past the magic number of 500 homicides per year. For context, it is worth noting that the total killings in the city outweigh the combined total of New York and Los Angeles (no safe havens themselves if the crime statistics from there are to be believed). The more dramatic analysts have described this as a kind of massacre on American streets.

Finding the Root Causes of the Violence

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) has a list of Chicagoans who are believed to be at risk of either killing or being killed. The police started compiling their Strategic Subject List three years ago in an attempt to save the lives of everyone listed, reports the Chicago Tribune. One by one, individuals on the strategic subject list are visited during a proactive well-being check. These checks, known as “custom notifications,” do not involve arrests but instead conversations and warnings. Officers warn listed individuals that they have been identified as being at risk for killing or being killed and that there are alternatives for safer lifestyles available to them. Depending on the circumstances, officers sometimes bring community activists or religious leaders with them during these well-being checks.

What Factors are Used to Generate Chicago’s Strategic Subject List?

The police have not precisely explained the factors that are being used to identify at-risk individuals for their Strategic Subject List. However, the department did tell the Chicago Tribune that they are focusing on the 1,400 individuals who are considered to be most at risk and that a person’s criminal record, age at first arrest, and whether the person has been previously shot are all taken into account. Some civil rights organization leaders in Chicago are concerned that the CPD is not telling the public which factors are being used to create the Strategic Subject List and worry that this lack of transparency may be masking racial profiling. The Police Department says that they will not release the precise combination of factors that are being used as doing so would undermine the program’s effectiveness.

A Chicago man is being held on $2 million bond and is being charged with reckless homicide of an unborn child, among other charges. Bail was set at $2 million Saturday for a man accused of causing a Northwest Side crash that seriously injured a pregnant woman and killed her unborn child. On Wednesday, August 12, the Chicago man allegedly crashed into a parked Mazda Protégé in which the pregnant woman was sitting.

Fetal Homicide Laws in Illinois

Maybe you were not aware that you can be charged with murder if a pregnant woman’s fetus dies as a result of your action. Illinois statute defines and penalizes for intentional homicide of an unborn child, voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child, involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide of an unborn child, respectively. These statutes define an “unborn child” as any human individual from fertilization until birth.

According to a report from the Tribune, a woman from Oak Lawn was charged with reckless homicide, along with several other crimes, after a fatal hit-and-run accident on Oak Park Avenue. The accident occurred shortly after midnight when the suspect, Jacqueline Cummings, was driving her 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee and struck Maria Domantay, sideswiped a police car, and fled. The Tinley Park police were at the scene handling a separate traffic accident when the hit-and-run occurred. The victim was pronounced dead in the emergency room at Silver Cross Hospital, and according to preliminary autopsy results, Domantay died due to multiple injuries from being struck by a vehicle.94182472_fdbc803e7e

Cummings was also charged with failure to report an accident involving death, failure to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle, improper lane use, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, failure to signal, and use of a wireless phone in an emergency zone.

Reckless Homicide in Illinois

According to Illinois statutes, a person commits reckless homicide if he or she unintentionally kills an individual while driving a motor vehicle recklessly. Even though the individual did not mean to kill anyone, his or her reckless manner of driving caused someone’s death.

The most important question in reckless homicide cases is whether the suspect’s conduct can be considered reckless. The law defines recklessness as someone’s conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his or her actions are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another, and that disregard is grossly different from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the situation. To be reckless is to take an unnecessary risk that most people would consider likely to harm others.

Penalties for Reckless Homicide

Reckless homicide is a Class 3 felony in Illinois, with a possible prison sentence of two to five years upon conviction. However, the charge can be enhanced with a more serious penalty in other circumstances. For example, if a defendant committed reckless homicide on a public thoroughfare where children were going to and from school with a school crossing guard present, the offense is enhanced to a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range of 3 to 14 years in prison. This is also the case if the reckless homicide occurs in a work zone or the defendant failed to comply with a lawful traffic control order from a police officer. The same is true if the victim is a family or household member of the defendant. There are other enhancing circumstances found in Illinois statute that may impose more serious penalties for a reckless homicide conviction.

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A Highland Park, Illinois girl pled guilty last week to reckless homicide and was found guilty by a judge for aggravated DUI in a 2012 case that injured three and left a 5-year-old girl dead. The teen faces up to five years imprisonment on the reckless homicide case, and up to 14 years imprisonment in the DUI case. The girl had been released from drug rehab two weeks prior to the accident.

Illinois Reckless Homicide

An individual commits reckless homicide in Illinois if she “unintentionally kills an individual while driving a vehicle.” If no vehicle was involved, the death would be considered involuntary manslaughter under Illinois law.

In this case, the defendant passed out while driving her car and hit the young girl before crashing into a car. When she woke up, she backed up – hitting the girl a second time – and then, in her groggy state, ran over the girl one final time. The defendant admitted to police on the scene that she caused the crash.

In all criminal cases, an experienced attorney will strive to gain an outright dismissal or a reduction of charges. In some cases, however, where it is clear that the defendant committed the crime – as in this case, where not only did she admit her actions to police on the scene, but also there were numerous eyewitnesses – entering a guilty plea was the best defense. Because the judge can grant probation in a reckless homicide case, entering a guilty plea may be the best chance at gaining leniency from the court in sentencing.

Illinois Aggravated DUI

As admitted by the defendant and her attorney, the defendant caused the crash, which seemed to be the result of her huffing from a computer air duster while driving. The defense argued that not all inhalants are listed as intoxicants under Illinois state law, and in fact the Illinois Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act does not prohibit the use of difluoroethane, or DFE, which was the substance found in the defendant’s system at the time of her arrest.

This is not the first time the issue of whether DFE is considered an intoxicant for purposes of a DUI charge has been at issue. In 2012, the Second District Court of Appeals in Wisconsin overturned a conviction on a similar DUI charge. The court agreed with the defense that DFE was not listed in the Wisconsin statutes as a prohibited intoxicant, and that the defendant could not be found to have been in violation of the state’s DUI laws. In that case, the defendant inhaled the substance from a computer air spray can, like the one the defendant used in this case.

It is unclear from this case why the judge convicted the defendant of aggravated DUI despite the fact that DFE is clearly not listed under Illinois law as a prohibited intoxicant. The only rationale is a seeming catch-all phrase in the statute, which includes as a prohibited substance “any other substance for the purpose of inducing a condition of intoxication.”

Since DFE is not specifically listed as a prohibited substance, despite being a primary chemical in air spray cans, the assumption should be that it is not an intoxicant. In this type of case (and there is no implication that the defense in this case did not do these things), an experienced attorney could turn to a team of medical experts to look for other reasons the defendant may have passed out while driving that were unrelated to the DFE in her system.

Regardless of whether the blackout was or was not caused by the DFE, an appeal should be submitted immediately. The judge had no basis for finding that DFE was an intoxicant based on the plain language of the statute, and precedent – even though from another state – supports overturning the conviction.    Continue reading

Abortion is legal in the state of Illinois. But as a Humboldt Park woman discovered in January of this year, if you unintentionally cause the death of an unborn child, you could go to prison.

The woman was making a U-Turn from West North Avenue when she crashed in to a pregnant woman riding a scooter. The woman was tossed from the scooter, and doctors were later unable to locate the fetus’ heartbeat. The driver was charged with one count of felony reckless homicide of an unborn child and one count of aggravated DUI causing bodily harm after a DUI kit showed she had marijuana in her system.

Reckless Homicide v. Involuntary Manslaughter of Unborn Child in Illinois.  crashed-car-1148745-m

In Illinois reckless homicide of an unborn child occurs when the driver of a motor vehicle recklessly causes the death of, or great bodily harm to, the mother, which results in the unborn child’s death. The charge applies whether the person’s actions were lawful or unlawful. Reckless homicide is a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.

If a motor vehicle is not involved, the charge is involuntary manslaughter.

Defense Against Illinois Reckless Homicide Charge

It is undeniably sad when an unborn child dies. However, even if you were involved in an accident that allegedly caused the death of that child, it does not automatically mean the death was your fault.

Like any vehicular case, David L. Freidberg will first look at the crime scene evidence and the police report. Experts may be able to disprove the prosecution’s claim that you caused the accident, or that it happened in the manner they claim. Experts will look at evidence such as eyewitness statements, video surveillance footage, skid marks, estimated speed and driving conditions in an attempt to reconstruct the accident to determine if your actions were reckless. They will also look at the actions of the other driver or pedestrian to determine if you even caused the accident.

Medical experts may also examine the mother’s medical history related to the pregnancy. Stillbirth, which is the in utero death of a fetus past 20 weeks gestation, occurs in 1 out of every 160 pregnancies; miscarriage, which is the spontaneous loss of a fetus prior to 20 weeks gestation, occurs in 10–25% of all pregnancies. It is therefore possible that the unborn child had died prior to the accident, and it was just discovered during the hospital’s examination of the mother following the accident. Examination of the mother’s medical records will show whether the mother had experienced any complications, or if the unborn child had any abnormalities, that could have resulted in an in utero death days or weeks prior to the accident.

If the unborn child died following the accident, medical experts would review the mother’s medical records looking for the same information. If an autopsy of the unborn child was performed, that may have evidence of an underlying condition that could have resulted in the child’s death, rather than the accident. The fact that an unborn child died near the time of the accident does not automatically mean the accident was the cause of death, and David L. Freidberg can help uncover other possible causes of death. Continue reading

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