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Appellate Court Tosses Jail Term, Substitutes Probation for Nurse With Absence of Criminal History

A nurse who was driving an all-terrain vehicle when it crashed and killed her cousin will not have to serve out the remainder of her 42-month prison sentence, since the Illinois Appellate Court recently reduced her sentence to probation. Although the woman had been drinking on the night of the accident, she pled guilty only to reckless homicide, not aggravated DUI. Given that charge, and the woman's positive character and history, the trial court should not have sentenced her to jail time.

A nurse who was driving an all-terrain vehicle when it crashed and killed her cousin will not have to serve out the remainder of her 42-month prison sentence, since the Illinois Appellate Court recently reduced her sentence to probation. Although the woman had been drinking on the night of the accident, she pled guilty only to reckless homicide, not aggravated DUI. Given that charge, and the woman's positive character and history, the trial court should not have sentenced her to jail time.

Katie Daly's legal troubles began after she attempted to drive herself and four relatives from a bonfire back to a house using a John Deere Gator all-terrain vehicle. The vehicle skidded on wet gravel and overturned into a ditch, killing Daly's cousin, Annie Daly. The driver admitted having consumed alcohol earlier in the day.

The state originally charged Daly with two counts of aggravated DUI, but it later worked out a plea agreement with the woman. The deal called for the driver to plead guilty to one count of reckless homicide in exchange for the state dropping the aggravated DUI charges. The state recommended that the woman receive 30 months probation and 180 days home detention. Both the state and Daly's lawyer argued that the woman was a law-abiding nurse and mother who was unlikely to re-offend.

The trial judge rejected the recommended sentence, pointing out that the public policy of Illinois called for drivers convicted of aggravated DUI to serve between three and 14 years in jail. The judge set Daly's sentence at three and a half years.

The appeals court rejected this sentence and reduced the woman's sentence to probation. The court pointed out that, while the aggravated DUI statute requires offenders to serve jail time except in extraordinary situations, the reckless homicide statute calls for probation or conditional discharge unless the court finds that jail time is necessary to protect the public or giving a sentence with no jail time would "depreciate the seriousness" of the accused's conduct. Additionally, the trial court was required to contemplate Daly's "history, character and condition." The appeals court saw little to indicate that the trial court considered the woman's history and character, which included steady employment as a registered nurse, a stable home life, and a lack of previous criminal troubles.

The appeals court also took issue with several factors the trial court did consider. The trial judge admonished Daly for making the choices of drinking and then driving. However, the state never put on evidence that the woman was driving while intoxicated when the accident happened. The trial judge's statements seemed to demonstrate that he was sentencing Daly as if she had pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI, not reckless homicide.

DUI cases, like many types of criminal matters, can be resolved successfully through the collaborative process of plea negotiation. A successful plea deal not only saves you the anguish of a trial, but it may also save you from serious consequences, including serving time in jail. For advice and representation you can trust, talk to the DuPage County criminal defense attorneys at Martin & Kent about your DUI case. Our attorneys can help you devise a plan for your situation and decide whether pursuing a plea deal or a trial makes more sense for you.

Contact us online or by calling (888) 388-9151 to schedule your confidential initial consultation at no charge.

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