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What Happens During A DUI If A Death Results?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Nov 01, 2018

These DUI cases where death occurs because individuals drink and drive and get in an accident and kill either their passenger or some other driver or the passenger of another driver.

The prosecutors now in Los Angeles — and I've been doing these cases for twenty-five years — it used to be they would wait and see if they could prove that the person knew that it was dangerous to drink and drive and death could result, and that usually had to do with them having a prior DUI, doing the DUI classes or them finding some other evidence that they knew that this could happen, that it was foreseeable.

Now, they skip that. If someone is drinking and driving and a death results, that person is typically charged with second-degree murder.

The prosecutors figure that everybody now knows that drinking and driving can cause death because of social media and all of the attention Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the news media have put on drinking and driving and fatalities.

Yet still, when somebody is in court and they plead guilty to a DUI, they're told that if they continue to drink and drive and, in the future, they get in an accident, they can be charged with second-degree murder.

Really what this is doing with these DUIs and deaths usually is for murder; we need some malice. You have to harbor some ill will. You have to decide to kill somebody. But when these DUI cases come along, the bile will be implied when you act wantonly and recklessly. In other words, you drink, you drive. You know that somebody could die, yet you do it anyway, and a horrible accident result.

In many of these cases, the prosecutors will negotiate them down below a murder case and allow the person to get what's called a “determinative sentence” when they know when they're going to get out of prison. While other cases, depending on the severity of the defendant's actions, will not move on to the murder case, and they tell the person they have to plead to a murder charge.

Vehicular Manslaughter Jury Trial

Often, these cases go to trial, and the jury will have to decide whether or not you have a vehicular manslaughter charge or somebody was negligent. An individual died or whether it's that wanton disregard for human life occurring and they find them guilty of murder.

Then a judge in these drinking and driving cases in Los Angeles, when the person is found guilty of murder by a jury, has no choice but to sentence that person to a minimum of fifteen to life in prison. That's a situation where they have to serve fifteen years, and once they've done that, they're eligible for parole. They might never get out depending on how the parole department feels about the crime, the particular individuals, and the victims of that specific crime.

So, I'm sure you can see from what I'm saying here, and I've been doing this for twenty-five years and have handled thousands of DUI cases across Los Angeles — many murder cases where someone is racing or drinking and driving, and they get charged with a murder charge, so I know what the standard is.

I have a good feel for the political landscape of the District Attorney's office, and I saw that shift a few years ago when they just started filing all of these DUI-related deaths as murder cases. I've talked to some higher-up prosecutors, and they say it is our policy now.

Drink and drive, kill somebody — you're going to get charged with murder, and then you're begging to try to get vehicular manslaughter or some other charge that doesn't carry that fifteen to life.

So, if you've got one of these cases, you have to get in front of a criminal defense attorney who has handled these drinking and driving death cases, knows how to mitigate them, and knows how to defend them.

Mitigating Circumstances to Avoid Murder Charges

Sometimes there's a defense. Other times you don't have a good reason. Still, you have some exceptional mitigating circumstances. We can convince the prosecutors and judge not to give you that murder charge, not sentence you to fifteen to life, and work out other resolutions that make sense for who you are and what happened out there.

Many different factors go into these DUI-related death cases. The best judge of that is a DUI defense attorney who has been doing it a long time, knows the local court system, knows the prosecutor's tendency in the court where your case is pending, and knows how to handle these cases — knows how to maneuver them through a politically-charged, sometimes bureaucratic criminal justice system.

Make the phone call today. Let's sit down. We'll go over your case and start making the right moves to get you in the best possible position.

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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