In Orange County and throughout California, people can be prosecuted for
murder if while driving under the influence, they kill another person.
Such a person can be the driver’s own passenger, the driver or passengers
in another vehicle, or it can even be a bicyclist or a pedestrian.
DUI second-degree murder is known as a “Watson murder,” and it’s
the most serious of all of the state’s
felony DUI charges. If you’ve heard of
vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under Penal Code 191.5 PC, this crime involves ordinary
gross negligence; it’s different from a Watson murder.
How are the crimes different? A Watson murder is considered worse because
it implies malice or malice aforethought, which means a conscious disregard
for human life. You may be wondering why this is, especially if a drunk
driver had no “intention” of hurting or injuring another person.
The answer can be traced back to the “Watson advisement.”
What is the Watson advisement?
The term “Watson murder” came from the landmark 1981 California
Supreme Court case,
People v. Watson. That case ultimately set the stage so drunk drivers who kill another
person in an accident can be charged with second-degree murder under Penal
Code 187 murder.
People v. Watson, DUI defendants who are found guilty of DUI must sign or verbally acknowledge
the “Watson advisement” when they are sentenced for drunk
driving, acknowledging that:
Driving under the influence of alcohol or
drugs is extremely dangerous to human life, and
- If they kill someone while driving under the influence, the prosecutor
my charge them with murder.
In other words, if you have been convicted of DUI before, and you subsequently
kill someone in another DUI case, then you can be charged with a Watson murder.
In order for a DUI defendant to be convicted of murder in California, the
prosecutor must be able to prove that: 1) the death resulted from the
DUI, 2) the consequences of DUI endanger human life, and 3) the defendant
knowingly acted with a conscious disregard for this fact.
If you are being accused of a Watson murder, you face 15 years to life
in prison, a fine up to $10,000, and a strike under California’s
three strikes law. So, if you are in this situation, you need help now.
Contact an Orange County DUI attorney from the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. Our lead attorney is
a member of the
National College for DUI Defense and she is
Board Certified in DUI Defense!