More and more now I see a huge shift towards charging people with murder when it comes to drinking and driving resulting in a fatality. It used to be that the District Attorney's office in Los Angeles would only charge somebody with murder on a DUI death when they had clear evidence that the person actually had knowledge that it's dangerous to drink and drive and somebody could die. This is the foreseeability issue.
Dangerous to Drink and Drive
But now, what they say is everybody should know that it is dangerous to drink and drive and people could die. Everybody should realize that it's foreseeable that somebody could die if they drink and drive on the roads in Los Angeles, California.
So now, the prosecutor's first move when somebody dies and the other party had alcohol in their system is to charge that person with second degree murder and then they work backwards from there. Sometimes they will change the charge to a vehicular manslaughter charge. Sometimes they'll change it to another charge. Sometimes they won't even file the case.
The Judge tells you on your first DUI, it's dangerous to drink and drive. If you continue to drink and drive and somebody dies, you're going to be charged with murder. That's called the Watson Advisement.
So, they're telling you in court in dangerous to drink and drive. They're also telling you when you take those DUI classes. They play tapes for you. So, I'm seeing the prosecutors calling those people in those DUI classes and say, Bill was in your class, right?
Did you tell that class about what happens when you drink and drive — how people die? The instructor says yes. And was Bill in that class? Yes? How do you know? Because I see Bill signed up right here.
He was sitting in the class listening. So, that whole notice, knowledge, foreseeability issue is a huge thing when it comes to DUI-related deaths in Los Angeles, California.
But now with the prosecutors charging all of these cases with second degree murder right from the gate, the next thing I see is that they're looking for some sort of egregious act on the part of the defendant.
Examples would be that you're going over 100 miles an hour, or you're racing with another vehicle, or you have some prior activity where you're driving really dangerous.
I've seen one where they've got the person actually videotaping themselves going over 100 miles an hour on the freeway and they're trying to get that evidence in in a DUI murder case because they want to show that this guy is dangerous. Look at the wanton behavior here. Look at the mentality of this person.
Dangerous Wanton Behavior
So, when you see those two things combined — a DUI-related death and then some crazy, nasty behavior — you know that they're going to be looking at charging the person with second degree murder and your attorney is going to have to fight.
Your attorney is going to have to prove that no, you weren't trying to kill anybody. No, you didn't have that dangerous wanton behavior going on and all of this was just a terrible accident.
Unless there's some other cause. That's another way that we get out of these DUI cases — if we can prove that there's another cause of the DUI. For example, maybe there's a third vehicle involved.
There's a number of different angles here that can be taken to properly defend you. But, if you've got a DUI-related death and they can combine that with some sort of a bad act — whether it be racing or some other bad behavior — drinking way, way too much is another example that I see all the time — then they're going to charge you with a DUI-related death murder charge and you're going to be facing fifteen to life.
So, this notice and knowledge issue related to a DUI is crucial, even though the prosecutors charge DUI's with deaths all the time. If they don't' have evidence that you had knowledge or foreseeability of what happens about people drinking and driving, then a lot of times they can be convinced to take it down to a vehicular manslaughter, which is obviously a huge turn of events when somebody is facing fifteen to life.