Man gets 15 years for fatal “DUI” even though jury finds he was NOT impaired

Another person has been given a stiff sentence for a “DUI” causing a death even though he was not impaired at the time of the crash.  He received 15 years for causing a fatal crash which killed two people, at a time when he had cannabis metabolites in his a urine.  This could have come from smoking marijuana days or weeks earlier.

The difference between causing a death because of speeding and being found guilty of aggravated DUI is the difference between a fine, or even a sentence of up 364 days in jail if the driver was speeding more than 40 miles over the limit, to a case with a maximum sentence of up to 28 years.

From the Chicago Tribune:

A speeding, unlicensed driver who crashed into another car on the Northwest Side, killing a mother and her teenage son and injuring three other children, was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison.

Richard Strum, 37, read a brief apology to the families devastated by the 2011 deaths of aspiring beautician Claudia Delia, 35, and her 16-year-old son, Bryan, a charismatic member of a Taft High School dance squad.

Also injured in the crash were Delia’s stepson, Zack Marvin, a high school sophomore whose vision and hearing were permanently damaged on the left side of his head, forcing him to give up his dream of becoming a Marine, and Delia’s son Hauk Marvin, then 3, who broke a leg. A family friend, Chris Diaz, then 16, suffered a fractured pelvis. The group had been headed for an end-of-summer camping trip in Wisconsin.

Strum, a Chicago resident, had not had a valid license since 2003, Cook County prosecutors said, but continued to drive and rack up tickets…

Prosecutors argued that Strum was rushing to pick up his girlfriend on Aug. 9, 2011, when his Ford Mustang, southbound on Austin Avenue, slammed into Delia’s Honda Civic as it pulled out from Sunnyside Avenue.

A urine test found cannabis in Strum’s system, but jurors at the Leighton Criminal Court Building found him not guilty in May on counts that he was impaired while driving. His attorney argued that the amount of cannabis detected was minuscule and could have come from secondhand smoke.

Jurors, though, convicted him on multiple counts of aggravated DUI and reckless homicide

Strum briefly apologized and referred to his Christian faith, but he also said marijuana played no part in the crash.

“I can’t really begin to explain how sorry I am for your loss,” Strum said as he read from a piece of paper while seated at the defense table. “I was driving too fast that day. It was my stupidity that caused the accident, not the use of booze or drugs.”

Linn agreed that Strum was ultimately responsible for what happened, even if he never intended to kill anyone.

“I know he never had murder in his heart,” Linn said before handing down his sentence. “(But) he decided to drive the way that he drove. He drove in an incredibly fast and reckless manner.”

Strum faced up to a potential 28 years in prison. He must serve 85 percent of his 15-year sentence — almost 13 years.

I wrote about this in another blog post over a year ago.  Here is an excerpt of that:

Under Section 11-501.6 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code, anyone involved in a serious personal injury or fatal motor vehicle accident is required to submit to alcohol or drug testing…

Under a 2011 Illinois Supreme Court decision, People v. Aaron Martin, 2011 IL 109, a person can be prosecuted for aggravated DUI involving a death even if that person was not impaired and even if they didn’t cause the accident.

You see, in Illinois, a person can be charged with a DUI just for having drugs in his or her system.  The DUI statute states that:

5/11-501(a) A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while:
(1) the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is 0.08 or more based on the definition of blood and breath units in Section 11 501.2;
(2) under the influence of alcohol;
(3) under the influence of any intoxicating compound or combination of intoxicating compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely;
(4) under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving;
(5) under the combined influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving; or
(6) there is any amount of a drug, substance, or compound in the person’s breath, blood, or urine resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis listed in the Cannabis Control Act [720 ILCS 550/1 et seq.], a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act [720 ILCS 570/100 et seq.], an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act [720 ILCS 690/0.01 et seq.], or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act [720 ILCS 646/1 et seq.].    625 ILCS 5/11-501.

This statute applies to all DUIs in Illinois, whether misdemeanor or felony.

Thus under section (a)(6), a person commits a DUI when they drive, or are in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while there is the presence of a drug in his or her blood, breath or urine.

(Note that this statute only requires a “controlled substance” so prescription pain medication would qualify; also note that unless the driver has the ability to test his breath, blood or urine on a daily basis, he would have no way of knowing when the controlled substance has passed out of his system).

What makes this case a felony then is the following language:

(d) Aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds, or any combination thereof.
(1) Every person convicted of committing a violation of this Section shall be guilty of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds, or any combination thereof if:
(F) the person, in committing a violation of subsection (a), was involved in a motor vehicle, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or watercraft accident that resulted in the death of another person, when the violation of subsection (a) was a proximate cause of the death.

Note that it is the violation of the DUI statute itself (“subsection (a)”) that leads to the upgrade to aggravated DUI, not any impaired driving.

The penalty for this is a minimum of three to fourteen years if there is one death, or six to twenty-eight years if two or more people died in the accident.  Probation is available only if a judge determines that “extraordinary circumstances” exist.


3 thoughts on “Man gets 15 years for fatal “DUI” even though jury finds he was NOT impaired

  1. Pingback: A common-sense editorial about DUIs based on drugs in one’s system | illinoisduilawyer

  2. Pingback: Illinois State Bar Association to push to correct law that punishes unimpaired driving with traces of cannabis | illinoisduilawyer

  3. Pingback: Gov. vetoes bill to decriminalize pot and replace zero tolerance pot DUIs with a legal limit | illinoisduilawyer

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