Watson DUI Murder In California
The best way to defend a murder charge is to show that either the accident and resultant death were someone else's fault or that the person charged with the murder was not involved in conduct that rises to the legal of a murder filing.
In my experience, the best way to evaluate these types of cases is to compare the evidence that the prosecutors and defense will argue to the law that exists and then assess how a jury will react to the evidence on both sides. Also, we can feel how a jury will likely respond by looking at precisely what the defendant did.
Accidents happen all the time on our highways. What turns an accident into a crime relates to how dangerous the person was driving before the accident and whether they had taken any substance that affected their ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.
When someone dies in an accident, the authorities are more likely to file a criminal charge than just a typical fender bender.
- Charged With DUI Murder If They Didn't Mean To Kill Anybody?
- What Type Of Knowledge is Needed To Get a DUI Murder Charge?
- When Can a DUI Case be Elevated To a Second Degree Murder?
- What Happens If My DUI Involved Someone's Death?
- DUI Causing Death Defense In California
- How to Defend a Watson DUI Murder Charge
- New LA District Attorney Policy on DUI Murder Charges
- What Am I Facing If My DUI Caused a Death?
In deciding whether to file a case like murder or vehicular manslaughter, the prosecutors will examine whether they have a strong argument that the defendant knew they could get into an accident and kill someone if they drank alcohol drove.
This is why all of the courts in Los Angeles County are specifically telling all defendants that plead guilty to DUIs that drinking alcohol and driving is dangerous to human life and that if they do it. A death results from their actions, then they could be charged with murder. This is called the Watson advisement and is very effective in a later murder trial.
Murder vs. Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
At best, the dividing line between murder and manslaughter, about a DUI that causes death, is a murky one. When I do jury trials, I see the jury asking questions related to the law that make it clear they are confused about the judge's instructions.
The language used does not usually give the jury or trier of fact a clear idea of when they should find a person guilty of murder (which carries a sentence of 15-life) or some manslaughter charge (which has a significantly lower penalty).
For the prosecutors to prove that a person who drank alcohol and caused an accident is guilty of murder, they must show that the person acted with a wanton disregard for human life.
The jury will evaluate whether the subject person knew or reasonably should have known that by drinking alcohol and driving, it was reasonably foreseeable that they could later end up in an accident that killed someone.
This is a subjective thought pattern on the defendant's part, and the jury will be looking at evidence from both sides in making their final decision.
To find a person guilty of murder, the prosecutors must show that the particular person possessed the intent to kill. Most people have a strong argument in a DUI crash that they never intended to kill anyone.
However, the legislature has passed a law that allows a jury to infer the necessary intent if the prosecutors can prove that there is what is known as “implied malice.”
This means that even though a person did not intend to kill anyone, the tried of fact can imply the malice necessary for a murder charge if they can show that the person acted with such a callous disregard for human life that they should be charged with murder.
This falls under the umbrella of what is called depraved heart killing. In other words, someone is acting so dangerous and careless that we will not let them hide behind the fact that they were drunk on alcohol.
The best way to evaluate these cases is to sit down in front of a seasoned DUI defense attorney who has been down the road you are about to travel and had success.