Driving drunk has serious penalties like spending time in jail. Drunk driving penalties are more serious when it causes a traffic collision, death or injury. In fact, if an accident causes a fatality, a simple driving under the influence, or DUI, charge could become a murder charge.
When can a prosecutor charge someone who allegedly drinks, drives and causes a fatality with murder?
The answer is simple. A DUI arrest that involves two things can lead to a murder charge:
- Extreme circumstances; and
- At least one fatality.
DUI Law & the State’s Watson Murder Case
The “Watson murder” refers the 1981 People v. Watson which was decided by the Supreme Court. The court case established a direct connection between a second-degree murder charge and DUI. Driving after drinking alcohol is dangerous and it may lead to a murder charge.
To establish a DUI murder charge, prosecutors must prove the following facts according to the Watson decision:
- Prosecutors must show that the defendant intentionally caused the victim’s death.
- Prosecutors must show that the act was distinctively hazardous to people.
- Prosecutors must show that the defendant knowingly chose to commit the act of drunk driving and killing another. He or she must also show the defendant had a disregard for the risks associated with drinking and driving.
Regarding a DUI murder charge, prosecutors may try to show that defendant chose to drive drunk knowing that his or her actions could kill another person.
Keep in mind that a DUI murder charge is not easy to prove. However, if done successfully a DUI murder charge can lead to a conviction with tough penalties. To obtain a conviction, prosecutors may try to prove what’s called “implied malice.” Implied malice suggests that a defendant knowingly drove drunk. He or she had the full knowledge of the risks associated with it such as killing someone. Under state law, implied malice can include:
- The driver acknowledged Watson warning.
- He or she attended a court-approved DUI school.
For instance, the court may assume that the defendant understood the dangers connected with driving under the influence. Although the defendant knew this fact, he or she willfully ignored it.
Have Your or a Loved One Been Charged with DUI? Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin today. We are committed to aggressively defending people arrested for DUI causing injury or death. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin, we defend our clients in Los Angeles County and the surrounding areas. Contact us for a free consultation.