Under Illinois statute, a person convicted of a DUI that causes the death of a person is facing a sentence of a minimum of three years imprisonment, up to 14 years, unless there are “extraordinary circumstances” which require probation.
Stroger Hospital executive Robert Vais must be very grateful today to his attorney and for Judge Nicholas Ford, who found extraordinary circumstances in his case, enough to warrant a sentence of only 100 days of jail and probation for a DUI fatality case which took the life of former U.S. Marine Hector Avalos.
According to news reports, the Judge considered Vais’ clean criminal and driving history, his accomplishments as a Cook County Hospital executive, and his remorse for his actions.
I’m sure the Judge also considered that the victim was riding a bike, wearing dark clothes, and had just exited a viaduct when he was struck from behind. Vais had a BAC of 0.118, which, while it is over the “legal limit” of 0.08 and is more than enough to impair an individual, is not an extraordinarily high BAC level (the average person charged with a DUI in Cook County has a BAC of 0.18).
From the Tribune:
Judge Nicholas Ford said he had to take into account that Vais had no criminal background, hadn’t fled from the accident scene and could again become a productive member of society.
“If I sentence him to 14 years in prison, would that be any worse than … every night when he closes his eyes, his last thought is that of causing the death of a Marine?” Ford asked.
“What Hector’s family has gone through is a thousand times worse that what (Vais) has gone through. To the mother whose life has been affected forever, you have my heartfelt sorrow for what you’ve gone through.”
Avalos’ mother nodded as Ford handed down his sentence. Later, she seemed at peace with the judge’s decision.
“He’s got a new beginning,” she said of Vais. “I hope he takes advantage of it.”