In this article DUI Defense Lawyer discusses When DUI is Charged as a Murder. Click on the links below to go directly to your topic of interest.
Driving under the influence, or DUI, is defined as the act or crime of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you are under the influence of alcohol, the DUI can be considered drunk driving. In this instance, you are driving a motor vehicle while your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over the legal limit established by the statute. This is allegedly the level at which a person is unable to drive safely. The state of California can charge you with murder if a DUI accident results in the death of another individual. A “Watson”, or second-degree, murder is the most severe offense and contains with it the strictest penalties.
The expression “Watson murder” originates from People v. Watson, a 1981 California Supreme Court case. This case instituted that it is probable for a drunk driver who caused an accident that takes somebody’s life to be found guilty of murder. You are usually only indicted if you have more than one prior DUI conviction in California, and have been cautioned of the dangers of driving under the influence. You have to perpetrate another DUI that brings about an accident, which takes the life of another individual. It is not an independent offense. It is rather an account of the circumstances where prosecutors indict a defendant with second-degree murder for perpetrating a deadly accident while DUI.
Prosecutors normally only charge you with murder if you have beforehand been presented a supposed “Watson admonition”—an official warning that impending DUIs could result in murder charges—or gone to a DUI school in California. If these criteria are unsatisfied, the DUI defendant that brought about a death will probably instead be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
In California, a prosecutor can only find you guilty of DUI murder or any second-degree murder by proving that you act with “implied malice”. This consecutively demands him or her to establish three elements of a Watson murder, which are as follows:
- You perpetrated a deliberate act that led to somebody’s death;
- That act’s natural results are threatening to human life; and
- You intentionally acted with conscious indifference for that threat.
It ought to be mentioned that intent was not present to enthusiastically take another person’s life in second-degree murder. This is what differentiates Watson/DUI murder and other types of second-degree murder from first-degree murder. Even though it might appear that the facts mentioned above would not be that hard for the prosecution to establish. It is the third fact that can cause DUI second-degree murder to be a hard case to prosecute.
If you are found guilty of DUI second-degree Watson murder, you are faced with the following punishment:
- Spending no less than fifteen years or more than a lifetime in a California State Prison;
- A ten-thousand-dollar fine; and
- A strike on your criminal record under California’s Three Strikes Law.
If any additional victims have survived but suffered a “great bodily injury” because of the conduct that resulted in the DUI murder conviction, you can get an extra and uninterrupted DUI penalty of three to six years in prison. “Great bodily injury” is defined as a considerable injury. Also, if there is at least one surviving victim of the Watson murder who experiences any injury, you encounter an extra and uninterrupted one-year sentence for every individual up to the maximum sentence of three years.
If you have any questions about your case, call Drunk Driving Defense Attorney directly. You will get a complimentary DUI case review!
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