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What Happens If My DUI Involved Someone’s Death?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jun 17, 2019

If death occurs related to a DUI in Los Angeles, the prosecutor will decide how they want to file the case. They determine that it is appropriate to file the case as a vehicular manslaughter case in some circumstances.

While in other cases, they decide that the defendant's conduct was so egregious that it warrants a second-degree murder charge. The difference between the charges will be life-altering for the particular defendant. If the case is filed as a second-degree murder charge, they will face fifteen years to life in state prison.

In deciding how to file a particular case, the prosecutors will assess whether the specific defendant appreciated or understood the high level of danger involved when someone drinks alcohol and drives a vehicle. They will also look at precisely what the defendant did in the subject case and their danger level to the public.

As I defend DUI cases in Los Angeles, I can see and hear judges throughout the county telling those people who plead guilty to a DUI if they drink alcohol again and drive. Someone ends up being killed due to their actions, then the prosecutors can charge them with second-degree murder.

This is known as a “Watson Warning” and is quite effective in a future prosecution for murder when the prosecutors can show that the defendant was told in a court of law just how hazardous it is to drink alcohol and drive a car.

I hear in society that we should not have an eye for an eye mentality in our lives. However, in the scenario where someone causes the death because they drank alcohol and caused an end, that is exactly what I see going on. The prosecutors file the case and make every effort to put the offending driver away for the rest of their lives.

Strategies to Avoid Murder Conviction

What is so challenging to comprehend related to persons being sentenced to life in prison for DUI-related offenses is that much of it relies on fate and unluckiness. I can not tell you how often I see people driving recklessly and being arrested for a DUI and not having to serve a day in jail.

While other times I see the same conduct or driving that is less offensive to the reasonable person, and that person ends up killing someone and is facing the rest of their life in prison.

This is why it is so vital, in my opinion, that you hire an attorney who has been down this road before and had success. The best criminal defense attorneys should negotiate with the prosecutors in a case like this. They have handled cases like this and can speak from experience and argue for their clients so that the prosecutors see the other side of the story.

Humanizing your client in these types of situations is extremely important. It can mean the difference between the worst possible outcome and one that everyone can live with under the circumstances. This includes character letters from friends, family, and colleagues.

It also includes letting the prosecutor know precisely what happened related to the subject drinking and driving. And hopefully, show the prosecutor that the defendant's conduct does not rise to the level of a murder charge being filed. This can be done by evaluating and explaining the person's history and the facts and circumstances leading up to the accident that caused the death.

DUI Case Review

The procedure that I use in these cases is to meet with the client face to face and go over everything related to the subject's accident, so I can see their side of what happened and why. I will also review all of the discoveries related to the case and discuss them with the assigned prosecutor.

I will be trying to get a feel for how the prosecutor views the case and what we can do to convince the prosecutor not to seek the harshest possible penalties and charges.

Once I have evaluated everything, the client and I sit down and decide exactly what we think is a fair and realistic way to handle the case. If we believe that the best way to take it is to fight and have a jury trial, then we will initiate an investigation and prepare a defense strategy that makes sense.

If, on the other hand, we believe that it is best to negotiate a resolution, then we will decide what the client's bottom line is related to the charges and punishment. I will use my experience and skills to achieve the desired result.

How to Defend a Watson DUI Murder Charge

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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