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Central Illinois woman sentenced for aggravated DUI

A Pekin woman has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for a fatal crash that occurred a year ago in Bartonville. It left a 7-year-old girl dead and a 5-year-old girl in a wheelchair with partial paralysis.

Under Illinois law, the woman will have to serve at least 85 percent of that relatively light sentence. She could have gotten as many as 14 years for the aggravated DUI conviction.

In a plea deal this summer, the 26-year-old woman was able to get two charges against her dropped. Those were reckless homicide and DUI involving drugs. She was found to have methamphetamine in her system when she crossed over the center line and hit an SUV head-on. The two girls were passengers in the SUV.

Under Illinois' "zero tolerance" law, prosecutors only had to prove that she was driving with drugs in her system for a DUI conviction as opposed to the drugs directly impacting her driving. Under state law, a person convicted of aggravated DUI who could qualify for probation also has to convince the court that there are "extraordinary circumstances" that should keep them out of prison.

The Peoria County judge in the case said that she failed to do that. He also seemed unmoved by the remorse she expressed in court for her actions on the day of her sentencing. He said that the time for thinking of the two young victims "was not today but was one year ago, on the morning of Oct. 24, 2017."

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the criminal courts are one way to get some measure of justice. We expect those responsible for doing harm while impaired to be punished by the criminal justice system. However, victims and surviving loved ones can also seek compensation for medical expenses, burial costs, rehabilitation and other expenses and damages by holding the driver liable in civil court.

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