Allegedly drunk river faces felony charges in fatal accident

Many people in Illinois regard a DUI charge as serious but not especially life-changing. Two things can convert a DUI stop into a serious criminal proceeding: one or more prior DUI charges or causing a serious injury or death while driving while drunk. A recent head-on collision on Illinois 15 in Belleville shows how both factors can compound the seriousness of drunk driving and create a need for a competent DUI defense attorney.

The defendant, a 54-year old man, had allegedly been drinking shortly before he drove his pickup truck the wrong way on Highway 15. According to police, the pickup crashed head on into a Kia Forte sedan. Both the driver and the passenger in the Kia were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the pickup was in Saint Louis University Hospital in critical but stable condition. He was initially charged with aggravated DUI, a felony, and two felony counts of reckless homicide. If the defendant is found guilty on these charges, he may face both a significant fine and several years of incarceration. A review of his driving record may further increase the seriousness of the penalties he faces.

According to county court records, the pickup driver was charged with a DUI in October 2016 when he refused a breathalyzer test. The automatic driver’s license suspension was rescinded when a county judge found several errors in the police officer’s report, but criminal charges from the DUI are still pending. The man previously pled guilty to a DUI charge in 2009 and to two separate cases of improper lane changes in 2000 and 2015 after being initially charged with DUI.

While DUI is always a serious crime, the additional factors of death and at least one prior DUI conviction will increase the magnitude of the penalties in this case. Anyone facing criminal charges will benefit from consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney for an evaluation of the facts of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or outright acquittal.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat, “Felony charges filed against driver in wrong-way, double-fatal crash,” Dana Rieck, July 11, 2017