When DUI Manslaughter (PC 191.5b) Becomes DUI Murder (187)
September 3, 2015
DUI murder is a serious crime in California

Because California possesses some of the toughest DUI penalties in the nation, it is vital for a person who is charged with a crime related to driving under the influence to have a Los Angeles DUI attorney in his or her corner. This is even more important when the individual has a prior DUI conviction.

Taking to the road while intoxicated has become such a significant problem, particularly in more densely populated areas, that states almost universally punish it severely. None so much as California, perhaps. A DUI accident that leads to a fatality is usually charged as DUI vehicular manslaughter (PC 191.5b), a serious enough offense which carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison. When the defendant has a prior DUI conviction, however, prosecutors often charge it as second-degree murder (PC 187).

The Watson Ruling

Murder charges require both malice and intent. A prosecutor does not need to use traditional arguments to establish intent in a DUI murder case, however. The reasoning for this is based on a ruling by the California Supreme Court in The People v. Watson. The ruling allowed prosecutors to argue that a defendant’s prior DUI conviction(s) suggests “implied malice.” In other words, the defendant’s previous conviction and subsequent required alcohol education is enough to establish that he took the wheel knowing that he was a danger to human life, but did not care.

The Watson ruling has led to courts requiring those convicted of a DUI offense to sign a form familiarly called the “Watson Admonishment.” The text is as follows:

“I understand that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs my ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If I continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result of my driving, someone is killed, I can be charged with murder.”

Punishment for DUI Murder

A conviction for DUI murder carries a 15 year-to-life term in state prison, far worse than the maximum of ten years for DUI vehicular homicide. This does not mean the defendant will be released after 15 years, either. Often numerous hearings in front of the Board of Prison Terms are necessary before the person is deemed suitable for release.

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today if You Have Been Charged with DUI Murder

If you are facing a DUI murder charge, your life as a free individual may be forever in jeopardy. It is vital that you hire a Los Angeles DUI attorney who will fight for you. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending individuals with DUI charges. Call us for a consultation at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245. 

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