Jan 24

Car accidents in Illinois do not always result in charges for a criminal offense. Instead, liability for damages generally follows the doctrine of negligence. The driver who caused the accident — or his or her insurance carrier — will be responsible for any resulting harm or injury. In certain cases, the perpetrator’s actions were so dangerous that criminal charges are appropriate, including involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide. 

Involuntary Manslaughter

The definition of involuntary manslaughter appears under 720 ILCS 5/9-3. This offense occurs under the following conditions:

  • A perpetrator acts in a reckless manner, whether lawfully or unlawfully;
  • These actions are likely to cause serious harm or death; and
  • A victim dies as a proximate result of the reckless actions. 

In this context, it does not matter whether the perpetrator acted in a lawful fashion. If their conduct was reckless and likely to cause harm or death, then it can rise to the level of involuntary manslaughter. A victim must die in order for this charge to apply. 

Section 9-3 also establishes the penalties for involuntary manslaughter. At a minimum, this offense qualifies as a Class 3 felony in Illinois. If convicted at this level, the perpetrator can face a sentencing range between two and five years, fines up to $25,000, and four years of probation. 

If involuntary manslaughter involves the death of a police officer — who was performing official duties at the time of the offense — then this offense becomes a Class 2 felony. At that level, a conviction can result in a sentencing range between three and seven years, fines up to $25,000, and four years of probation. 

Reckless Homicide

The definition of reckless homicide also appears under Section 9-3. In most respects, reckless homicide is the same as involuntary manslaughter. But reckless homicide offenses require the use of a car or similar vehicle. Under this section, reckless homicide occurs when a driver:

  • Recklessly operates a motor vehicle, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or watercraft and causes a death; or
  • Uses an incline — such as a railroad crossing, bridge, or hill — to send a vehicle airborne, and causes a death. 

As with involuntary manslaughter, it does not whether the driver acted lawfully or unlawfully. If the driver’s actions created a legitimate risk or harm or injury — and a person died as a result — then reckless homicide charges could be appropriate. 

Section 9-3 also outlines the penalties for reckless homicide. At a threshold level, reckless homicide is a Class 3 felony, punishable as described previously. If reckless homicide occurs in a construction zone, then it rises to the level of a Class 2 felony. In addition to the standard penalties for this type of felony, Section 9-3 requires a sentencing range between three and 14 years.

Do You Need Legal Help?

No matter what the criminal offense, all charges are serious. A sound strategy and an aggressive defense are essential for a positive outcome. To protect your rights in such situations, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The Prior Law Firm in Bloomington, Illinois, has proven experience in matters of criminal defense. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at johnprior@thepriorlawfirm.com or by completing an online form.