3-foot-law: useless if you’re dead

Okay, you might get somewhere with drivers who verbally harass you as well as physically try to shove you off the road — IF you have them on film, and have an ironclad case… and of course don’t count on getting too far.

If you’re dead, though, forget it.   That’s not “reckless.”   That’s not ‘willful and wanton.”   And that is what our state’s attorney, Julia Rietz, has said about applying the 3-foot law to the killing of Cindy Combs and critical injury of her husband David.

I looked up “reckless.”  What is cited as an example is: drives over an incline in the road, such as a railroad crossing, with the intent of making the vehicle airborne.

So.   Drive fast over RR tracks:  reckless.

if a driver had decided to see how long s/he could drive with eyes closed, would that be considered reckless?

Drive at excessive speed with your eyes closed, essentially:    Driving too fast to avoid an accident. (Not to avoid KILLING PEOPLE. Just to avoid an accident.)  NOT reckless.

The person seeking airborne-ness was *not* seeking to endanger others. S/he was simply placing the desires of the moment before the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle in a way that one would expect to be dangerous.

Be it granted that in the past, Mr. Maul would not be considered acting in willful and wanton way, because looking at a map was not something one would expect to be dangerous — and it’s just not as likely to be something done by a teenage male, and people don’t mind when we convict them.

However, laws change as we gain more knowledge. We — the general public — have been made aware that distracted driving is very dangerous. That impulse to drive very quickly and that impulse to look at the map were the impulses of the moment, and they were held to be more important than the lives of everybody else on the road. I’m sorry, but reading a map or whatever Mr. Maul was doing was a whole lot more dangerous than going over railroad tracks at high speed. I’ll bet you anything that driver would be looking at the road.

(From Ed Barsotti, having talked with Julia Rietz)

she explained that there was a big gap in Illinois law between minor driving offenses (e.g., improper lane usage in the Wilhelm case, maybe the new 3’ law in this new case) and reckless homicide.  Reckless homicide requires the prosecution to prove “willful and wanton” behavior, i.e., intentionally and consciously trying to do harm to the victim.  Previous case law had convinced her that she would have been unsuccessful in trying to prove this, so she felt stuck with the minor traffic offense as her only feasible option.  Afterwards, she (and others) actively advocated new Illinois law for negligent homicide, which would fill that gap, but she did not get support from her peers (the other counties’ states attorneys) or the legislature.

Julia called me soon after I sent my email, correcting my mistake about the new law above.  It, too, requires the reckless (”willful-and-wanton” standard), so it does NOT provide another prosecution tool to fill the gap.   Especially during this early stage of the investigation, she’s not able to discuss specifics on the Combs-Maul case, but it seems like she’s facing the same gap in the law that existed during the Wilhelm case.

So. I looked up what “reckless driving” is.

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