Let’s say you are driving down the highway at night during a heavy thunderstorm. Visibility is poor, but you are still driving over the speed limit. Suddenly, you crash, killing the other driver.
Can you be charged with homicide? The answer may depend partly on how fast you were going even if you were not under the influence of alcohol.
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. (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.
Whether you were indeed reckless may be inferred from all the facts and circumstances and may be established by evidence of your physical condition and your manner of driving. Negligence alone is not enough to prove recklessness. Evidence of excessive speed, by itself, is not sufficient to sustain a conviction of reckless homicide. However, excessive speed, combined with other circumstances showing that a conscious disregard of a substantial risk likely to cause death or great bodily harm may be enough.
Therefore, if you drive just a little over the limit in the pouring rain, you may simply be negligent. But if you are zipping along intoxicated at an overly high rate of speed on a slippery and busy highway, you have probably crossed into recklessness.
If you were not driving a motor vehicle but you unintentionally and recklessly caused a death, you could instead be charged with involuntary manslaughter. See our related blog What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter.
If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(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.)