Contrary to what you may have seen on TV, running a stoplight that results in a traffic death is not automatically a criminal offense.  Of course, the death is a terrible tragedy, and you may be sued in civil court for negligence, but you will not go to prison.

However, a traffic accident may become a criminal offense if you: (1) drove recklessly, (2) were impaired or (3) left the scene of an accident.

In Illinois, you may be charged with reckless homicide if you unintentionally kill someone while driving a motor vehicle. Your actions, whether lawful or unlawful, must be performed recklessly and must be likely to cause death or great bodily harm. (See 720 ILCS 5/9-3.) You act recklessly when you consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk, and that disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in your situation. (See 720 ILCS 5/4-6.)

You can also face prison time if you had alcohol or drugs in your system.  If you were below the legal limit of .08 or had taken drugs, the state must show that your impaired driving caused the accident.  If you drove safely even after a few drinks, the state may have trouble convicting you. However, if you were over .08  the state need not show you were impaired, only that your caused the accident and your blood alcohol was over the limit.  (See 625 ILCS 5/11-501.)

A third offense with possible prison time is leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury or death. If you are in an accident, you must immediately stop at or as close to the scene of the crash as possible without obstructing traffic.  You must help the person struck and remain there until you have given your contact and insurance information. (See 625 ILCS 5/11-401.)

If you are charged with a traffic or criminal offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately.  An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense.  Generally, the state must prove all the elements of a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  Can the state prove that you drove the car? Did someone else cause the accident? Can you challenge the breathalyzer results? If you left the scene, were you looking for safe place to pull over? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

 

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Matt Keenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 24 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery…

A criminal and school law attorney with over 24 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU, Illinois State Bar Association.