Readers in Virginia may be interested to learn of an off-duty police officer who was convicted of killing a bicyclist while driving drunk.
The drunk driving accident happened late one night in May 2009. A member of the Chicago police force, not on duty at the time, drove while intoxicated and struck a teenager riding a bicycle. Sadly, the victim died as a result of the accident.
Another officer later pulled over the off-duty policeman for driving the wrong way down a one-way street. When the driver exited the vehicle the officer on the scene noted an open container of alcohol in the car.
However, several hours passed before the driver took either a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test, calling into question the evidence collected and later used at trial. The arresting officer called his commanding officer to the site of the accident before administering the proper tests. At the time the tests were performed, the officer's blood alcohol content was .079, which is just below the legal limit in Illinois of .08.
During the trial prosecutors focused on the officers' conduct alleging favoritism on the part of the force. However, the officer who waited for an on-duty incident commander defended that decision. He argued that the presence of a higher commander, serving as an on-site supervisor, would help prevent improper actions.
A jury recently found the driver guilty of reckless homicide as well as aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. At his upcoming sentencing the officer could face a range of penalties ranging from probation to more than a decade in prison.
This case shows that even what would seem like obvious cases of negligence can be affected by many factors: the collection of evidence, the appearance of favoritism and the delay of conducting a breath test. However, the family of the boy who was killed would appear to have a strong case for gaining compensation for their terrible loss.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Former lieutenant says he regrets handling of fatal DUI involving Chicago cop," Jason Meisner and Jeremy Gorner, Feb. 22, 2012