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When Can a DUI Case be Elevated To a Second Degree Murder Charge?

  • By: Ronald D. Hedding
  • Published: February 13, 2019

This is something that happens a lot in Los Angeles county and throughout the country quite frankly. A lot of prosecutors are filing DUI cases where deaths result as murder cases.In fact, every single DUI person that goes through LA county that has to plead guilty to a DUI and fill out the waiver form and talk to the judge about it, are going to be told on the waiver form and specifically told on the record by the judge, that drinking and driving is very dangerous to human life and if you drink and drive and get caught for a DUI and somebody dies, you could be charged with murder by the prosecutors. See related: People v. Watson.

Warned of Danger of Drunk Driving

That’s one of the first ways they can get you for a murder charge as it relates to a DUI — is if you have knowledge of it.

In other words, if you have notice that drinking and driving can kill somebody and you go out and decide to do it anyways, then that’s where you put yourself in a position to potentially be charged with murder.

That’s one thing that people don’t really get. Because a lot of times people are getting so drunk they don’t even know what they’re doing, so they didn’t intentionally kill anybody, so they can’t figure out how they could possibly be charged with murder when they weren’t even cognizant of what was going on.

That’s where the problem comes in, because they’re not going to look at how your mind was operating at the time that you killed somebody in the car when you were drunk.

They’re going to look at what you knew beforehand. In other words, they’re going to hold you responsible. They’re going to say, if you knew you were going out drinking and you knew it was dangerous to drink and drive and you did it anyways and you killed somebody, we’re going to hold you accountable for it.

Prior DUI Convictions

You can’t just say, I was too drunk, I don’t’ remember, so I shouldn’t be responsible for it. As liberal as California is, it certainly is not liberal when it comes to DUI’s. It’s very conservative and very, very harsh. In fact, I think one of the harshest states in the nation. It used to be that you actually had to be told specifically, if you drink and drive and kill somebody, we’re going to charge you with murder.

So, they were getting people for murder cases related to DUI’s in LA county when they had prior DUI’s because they were told on the record. They were told in DUI classes. You can’t drink and drive. You’re going to kill somebody. So, then they would use that to get that knowledge factor that I’m talking about.

DUI Murder Charges

But now, things have changed. They don’t care about that anymore. They’ll certain use it if they have the information to try and convict you for the DUI murder, but even if they don’t that, even you have a completely clean record and you end up getting a DUI and you kill somebody, you know what the prosecutor is going to argue?

Everybody knows that it’s dangerous to drink and drive. Everybody knows that you could kill somebody if you drink and drive. So, they don’t care whether you have a prior record. They don’t care that you were warned before.

The first thing they do now in this cases where they can prove that someone’s blood alcohol level was a .08 or greater, they drove a car and they killed somebody and the accident was their fault, the first thing they do now is they charge you with second degree murder. Your bail is usually very high — a half a million to a million dollars.

You’re usually looking at fifteen to life in prison, and then they negotiate from there. Sometimes they’re willing to give you something less than that second degree murder charge and sometimes they’re not. And that’s the position of strength that the LA county prosecutor’s office has decided to come from when it comes to these DUI’s where people are getting killed.

You Need An Experienced DUI Lawyer

I’ve handled a lot of these cases. I’ve been doing these cases for over twenty-five years now in LA county. I’ve handled them in every court in the county, so I know how to deal with them.

I know what it takes to get the not guilty verdict if the evidence is there to try to get that. I know what it takes to show that you were not the cause of the death and I know what it takes to mitigates these murder charges down to DUI charges so you’re in a better position to avoid that very harsh fifteen to life sentence that comes along with a DUI where somebody died and the prosecutors decide to charge you with second degree murder.

So, pick up the phone now. Make the call. We’ll sit down and we’ll start to get the plan together to get you or your loved one out of his nightmare situation.

Ronald D. Hedding

About the Author Named Top Los Angeles DUI Defence Attorney by LA Times and named one
of the Top 100 DUI Defence attorneys in California by the National Trial
Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.