More and more, the district attorney's offices across California, including Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, are filing Watson murder cases.
Suppose you don't know what a Watson murder is. In that case, it has to do with somebody who is either drinking alcohol and driving, using drugs and driving or just driving horrifically recklessly and killing another person. Usually, you can't charge somebody with murder unless you prove that they planned the murder and had malice of forethought.
But malice can be applied in the Watson situation because what they do is, instead of looking at what your intent was at the time of the killing, they look at your intent before the killing. They look at what you did when you went out.
Example of a Watson Murder
A perfect example where Watson usually comes up is you go out drinking at a bar and realize you'll have to drive out of there and do it anyway.
You have a bunch of drinks, and while intoxicated, you decide to go out on the road, and someone is killed. They're going to imply malice in that situation, and they're going to charge you with California Penal Code 187 PC second-degree murder. You will face a minimum of 15 years to life in prison.
How to Defend These Charges?
So, if you or a loved one find yourself in that position, you're thinking about how we can defend this case. It's going to depend on the facts and circumstances of what happened.
Unfortunately, somebody died in an accident, and even though the other party was intoxicated, it wasn't that party's fault. They weren't the cause of the death.
That's one argument that can be used in a Watson murder case. You say look; I may have been DUI. I may have had alcohol, but I didn't cause that accident.
Thus, I'm not responsible for the death, so I cannot be charged with murder. Therefore, I shouldn't be found guilty of murder. That's one example I've seen before of a defense that can be used.
Can You Seek a Lesser Charge?
So, we have to sit down and discuss the case and determine the best defense. Sometimes you were intoxicated and killed another person on the road. However, instead of a PC 187 murder charge, maybe the following is more appropriate:
- Penal Code 192(b) PC involuntary manslaughter; or
- Penal Code 192(c) PC vehicular manslaughter.
Those are much better than second-degree murder under the Watson decision.
Review of Your Criminal Record
Really what they're going to look at is your prior criminal record, such as the following:
- Have you ever had another DUI before, and now, here you are again after you've been warned how dangerous it is to drink and drive?
- Do you have a spotless record?
- What was your blood alcohol level?
That's another way to try and attack. The blood alcohol level wasn't even that high. I wasn't intoxicated. Unfortunately, it's just a typical traffic accident, and a fatality resulted, but I shouldn't be charged with murder.
Vehicular manslaughter is more of a negligence or gross negligence theory where someone's driving dangerously on the road. But, still, they shouldn't be held to that high standard of wanton disregard for human life, which is what we're talking about when we talk about a Watson murder-type case.
Can You Mitigate the Case?
In some cases, we will try to defend and say the person is not guilty of murder when considering why. In other cases, we'll have to concede that they are guilty but try to mitigate the situation based on the facts and circumstances.
This would be based on your type of person and try to get them to give you a lesser charge. But, a third way, and probably the way it's usually done, is that we will do both.
We're going to try to mitigate everything. We will fight the case and do everything possible to get you or your loved one the best possible result. Thus, it would be best if you did the following:
- Step one is to hire an attorney;
- Step two is to get a road map on how the case will be defended, and
- Step three is executing the plan to get you the best possible resolution.
You've come to the right place. I've been doing this now for 30 years. I've seen it transgress from them only filing it when you have a prior DUI to now; the prosecutors take the position that everybody knows how dangerous it is to drink and drive.
Therefore, if you drink or drive, they don't care if you have a prior record; you'll still get charged with Penal Code 187 PC second-degree murder.
If you need the best, you've come to the right place. Pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. We offer a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.