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Causing a Catastrophe

720 ILCS 5/29D-15.1 March 27, 2023

Causing a Catastrophe Attorney in Cook County

Causing a Catastrophe in the State of Illinois is a very serious offense, so much so, that the penalties for being found guilty of causing a catastrophe is no less than 6 years and no more than 30 years in the Department of Corrections. A charge this serious is also usually accompanied by other Felony charges, meaning an unsuccessful defense may very well result in the Defendant being held in captivity for the rest of their natural life.

Elements of Causing a Catastrophe

Before I begin, I just need to ask a couple of preliminary questions, first off, do you enjoy fishing? Would you do anything to spend time with the boys? And are you currently engaged in an extra-marital affair that you will do anything to ensure that your wife doesn't find out? Just out of interest.

A person commits the offense of causing a catastrophe if he or she knowingly causes a catastrophe by:

(1) explosion;
(2) fire;
(3) flood;
(4) collapse of a building;
(5) release of poison, radioactive material, bacteria, virus; or other dangerous and difficult to confine force or substance.

"catastrophe" is defined as: serious physical injury to 5 or more persons, substantial damage to 5 or more buildings or inhabitable structures, or substantial damage to a vital public facility that seriously impairs its usefulness or operation;

"vital public facility" is defined as a facility that is necessary to ensure or protect the public health, safety, or welfare, including, but not limited to, a hospital, a law enforcement agency, a fire department, a private or public utility company, a national defense contractor, a facility of the armed forces, or an emergency services agency

The use of the word knowingly in this instance means that the individual committing the action has knowledge or an awareness of the facts/situation at hand. It's considered to be an element of the overall charge and thus the burden is on the State to prove that you had sufficient knowledge in order to satisfy the element. This is important for situations in which the fact pattern shows the catastrophe occurred as a consequence of a mistake or an accident.


Does the name James Scott mean anything to you? Because it, frankly, means everything to me. In the research I had conducted on cases involving this crime I had stumbled across this absolutely amazing story of one man who hated his wife so much that he flooded 14,000 acres of the Missouri side of the Mississippi river.

The Mississippi river isn't some docile stream of cool water you can cup your hands into, it's an elongated drink of death, destruction, and if not properly corralled, devastation for anything that stands in its path.

Towns along the river have to have levee's in place to keep such natural forces from returning their homes to the soil. James Scott, and other surrounding families in Quincy and Hannibal maintain these levee's. James Scott, however, has a problem - that problem being that he has a wife.

July 16th, 1993 - The West Quincy Levee mysteriously breaks down, and the river was able to rip through it flooding 14,000 acres of land in Missouri, washing out all of the bridges in the area, and destroying several businesses in West Quincy.

When reporters arrived at the scene, there was James Scott - who had stated that he tried to fix a weak spot in the levee and then proceeded to walk away in order to partake in a cool beverage; and just as a consequence of happenstance, returned to the surrounding area underwater with the fish underneath the waves cutting up the area and engaging in turf warfare.

Accidents happen, sure. But the levee broke at what was previously considered to be its strongest point, and in fact, had been last inspected two hours prior to the burst. Further interviews conducted with James Scott found his story to be wanting, and when coupled with other interviews conducted by old friends of James Scott, the walls began to close in.

One of those interviews being conducted with a Mr. Joe Flachs who had stated that Mr. Scott stated he had flooded the river in order to strand his wife on the other side in order to allow him to party, fish, and to have some alone time with the woman he was having an affair with. Mr. Scott was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 10 years to life in prison. He has since maintained his innocence, and if anything can be learned by Mr. Scott's story, it's just get the divorce.

Causing A Catastrophe Attorney

Being charged with Causing a Catastrophe is a very serious offense in the State of Illinois, if you've been charged with this offense contact my office immediately to schedule your free consultation.