Extraordinary Circumstances Law: Does it Aid a DUI Defense?

Law Office of Philip R. Nathe

For residents in the western Chicago suburbs, impaired driving can result in serious consequences, which may include loss of a driver’s license and/or vehicle, a criminal record and steep fines.

If a driver injures or kills someone while driving under the influence the penalties are much more severe. In such cases, felony aggravated DUI or reckless homicide charges are possible. The penalties for an aggravated DUI are up to three years in prison as well as a lengthy driver’s license suspension. If there is a fatality prison sentences are even greater.

A recent Illinois law allows the defense in reckless homicide cases to request a lighter sentence by arguing that extraordinary circumstances existed. The factors a sentencing judge may consider include:

  • Family background
  • Criminal history
  • Age
  • Remorse

The law allows judges to award probation in cases that involve “extraordinary circumstances.”

How Does the Law Impact Criminal Sentencing?

Sentencing judges have wide discretion in deciding whether the extraordinary circumstance law is applicable and warrants a probationary sentence.

For example, a driver convicted of a DUI that resulted in the death of five passengers received 15 years in prison. The appellate court found that the length of the sentence was appropriate. At the sentencing, the defense had argued that the extraordinary circumstances law applied because the driver had virtually no criminal history, had two small children and was in compliance with her bond.

In another case, a driver convicted of a DUI that killed his passenger received only probation. The driver was under the age of 21, did not have a criminal history, had a strong family background and was remorseful. In this case, the judge found that the extraordinary circumstances law did apply.

Illinois appellate courts have ruled that the extraordinary circumstances law is constitutional. However, some continue to argue that the current definition is vague and needs to include more guidance on the weight of the various factors.

Source: The Naperville Sun, “Court upholds 15-year sentence for Vasquez,” Matt Hanley, June 6, 2012

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Extraordinary Circumstances Law: Does it Aid a DUI Defense?