Can DUI Lead to Murder Charges?


Drunk and drugged driving carry serious penalties for offenders, such as license suspension, DUI probation, community service, DUI School, fines and jail time. Those consequences pale in comparison to the ones faced by drivers who seriously injury or kill another person while drunk driving. If the accident causes a fatality, a simple drunk driving charge could lead to allegations of murder, even though the impaired driver had no intention of hurting anybody.

When can prosecutors pursue a murder charge? It’s simple – a DUI arrest that involves extreme circumstances and at least one fatality can lead to allegations of murder. For instance, a drunk driver strikes and kills a bicyclist or pedestrian, or the driver causes a head-on collision, killing the occupants in the other vehicle. These fatal events can lead to murder charges under California law.


"Watson murder" refers to a 1981 Supreme Court case, People v. Watson, which established a connection between DUI and second-degree murder. Since this landmark case, individuals convicted of DUI must acknowledge the Watson Advisement, which recognizes that drunk driving is dangerous and can lead to murder charges.

For prosecutors to establish DUI murder under the Watson Advisement, they must show: 1) that an intentional act caused the victim's death, 2) that the "act" was innately hazardous to human life, and 3) that the defendant knowingly chose to commit the act and disregard the associated risks.

In the case of a DUI murder, the prosecution could attempt to show that you chose to drink and drive, knowing it could lead to the death of another person. To obtain a conviction, the prosecution might try to prove "implied malice," which would suggest the defendant committed DUI with full knowledge of its innate risk.

Implied malice can include:

  • The driver acknowledged the Watson Advisement.
  • The driver attended a court-approved DUI School.

If the defendant attended a DUI school, the court will assume he or she understood the danger of driving under the influence and willfully chose to ignore this fact.


If you were in a fatal DUI crash, you should seek the advice of an experienced DUI attorney at once. At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc., we are dedicated to helping DUI defendants in Orange County. Contact our office today to speak to Attorney Landry, a board-certified specialist in DUI defense!

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