Some thoughts about the Highland Park tragedy

On Labor Day afternoon, a five year old girl was killed, and her mother and two brothers were injured, when an 18 year old motorist named Carly Rousso drove up on a sidewalk in downtown Highland Park.

According to reports, Rousso displayed signs of impairment and she was issued a misdemeanor citation for DUI.  After that, blood and urine samples were taken.  Toxicology results have not been released, and more serious charges could be filed.

Today, it was leaked in the Chicago Tribune that Ms. Rousso may have been inhaling from a gas cannister immediately before the crash.  Other possible intoxicants have been alleged in the comments section of the Highland Park Patch by people who claim to know Ms. Rousso.  Some of these people commenting on the Patch message board state other unflattering things about Ms. Rousso which I will let you find for yourself.

A few thoughts:

  • There have been questions raised by the public about why Ms. Rousso either was not initially charged, or (as it was later reported) she was charged, but only with a misdemeanor, allowing her to be released on her own recognizance and without being placed on any special restrictions.  Some of the explanations given by Highland Park police for this do not make sense to me.
  • First of all, when someone is involved in a fatal accident, they are required under Illinois law to provide a blood and/or urine sample.  So the remarks of the Deputy Chief of Police stating that the filing of a misdemeanor charge was a prerequisite to a blood or urine test was wrong.
  • Second, the Deputy Chief stated that they were waiting for toxicology results before filing charges because there was a double jeopardy concern that Ms. Rousso could plead guilty to a lesser charge, thereby preventing a more serious prosecution.  Again, this is wrong.  The State could file a felony complaint, request that a judge set a high bond (with restrictions on movement or home monitoring and urine testing if she made bail), and continue the matter while waiting for toxicology results.  No judge would accept a misdemeanor plea while a more serious charge was pending.
  • The only reason to wait for a toxicology result is because under Illinois law, it is easier to prove a DUI death case when there is narcotics in the blood or urine, because in such a case the prosecutor does not need to prove either impairment or that the impairment was the proximate cause of the fatal accident.  Even still, it is hard to see how a felony charge could not have been filed based on the evidence (as reported) that Ms. Rousso had driven in an extremely erratic manner before the accident, and was falling over while speaking to officers.  This would be enough to initiate a felony charge, and additional felony counts could have been added later when the toxicology results were available.
  • According to some of the comments on the Patch site, Ms. Rousso’s twitter account is @CarlyRousso.  I do not know for sure if this is truly her account, but if it is, a two year old tweet calling herself “the best drunk driver in drivers ed class” is not the type of thing any defense attorney would like to see.
  • The Highland Park Mayor should not be politicizing a criminal investigation and prosecution.  Shame on her for aggravating the situation and encouraging the police to act before they are ready.  It is bad enough that family members of the victim and others are accusing Highland Park Police of racism without any evidence.  Mayors should be calming the situation, not making it worse.
  • People on the internet, it is fine to comment on the situation.  But publishing this young lady’s home address, phone number, vacation photos and writing about her behavior in high school is not right.  You are putting her at danger.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  If she is guilty, she is facing a sentence of at least 4 to 12 years.  Even if you don’t care about her, you are endangering her other family members.  And please remember that every person in this country is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  There may be an explanation or other side to this story that we do not know about.  Do not jump to conclusions until you have heard all of the facts.

The tweet:

Best drunk driver in drivers ed class. I’m proud to present your designated drunk driver

One thought on “Some thoughts about the Highland Park tragedy

  1. Pingback: Updates to previous blog posts | illinoisduilawyer

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