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Family angered that "Julie's Law" defendant gets 6 months

The severity of grief increases for family members who learn negligence was the source of a traffic accident that took the life of a loved one. Punishments handed out by criminal courts sometimes don't satisfy the relatives' emotional need for justice.

Speeding was behind a fatal car accident in Orland Park last year that killed a high school graduate. The defendant charged with the car crash drove a Mazda into the side of a turning Jeep at nearly twice the posted 40-mph speed limit. The Frankfort teen that died had been a week away from celebrating her 18th birthday.

An aggravated reckless driving charge against the Mazda driver was reduced to misdemeanor aggravated speeding, after investigators failed to uncover enough evidence to make the felony charge stick. The former Lemont man, with seven prior court supervisions for traffic offenses, faced a six-month maximum prison term.

The teenage victim's family was outraged that the repeat offender could be punished so lightly. The 180-day maximum sentence was issued by a Cook County judge, who noted the 22-year-old defendant appeared almost flippant in court. The former Lemont man picked up another speeding citation following the Illinois fatality.

Perceived injustice drove the accident victim's family to press the Illinois General Assembly for harsher punishments for speeders. Julie's Law will take effect next July. The legislation forbids judges from giving extreme speeders probation-like court supervision.

Starting in 2013, Illinois drivers who exceed speed limits by 25 mph on non-rural streets or 30 mph on highways must be given harsher sentences than court supervision. Laws currently allow offenders to receive supervision after breaking speed laws by up to 40 mph.

Wrongful death lawsuits provide a form of economic recovery for family members hit hard by the loss and expenses associated with a loved one's death. Civil actions are separate from criminal charges and penalties and hold a careless defendant financially accountable for damages.

Source: articles.chicagotribune.com, "Driver in fatal crash that led to 'Julie's law' gets 6 months," Ashley Rueff, Sept. 25, 2012

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