How a DUI Charge Can Become a Murder Case

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How a DUI Charge Can Become a Murder Case

A fatal accident in Santa Barbara in 2012 provides ample evidence of how a case of driving under the influence (DUI) can escalate vehicular manslaughter to a second-degree murder charge. In that incident, two women voluntarily joy-riding on the hood of a vehicle for multiple passes over a bump in the road both fell off the car and one suffered fatal injuries. The driver charged with her death had been seen drinking and allegedly using cocaine at a party just prior to the accident.

What elevated this case to a DUI murder (also referred to as a “Watson” murder) was the fact the driver was a repeat DUI offender, including one charge that involved possession of drugs with the intent to distribute. His pleas in the prior cases involved signing a state Department of Motor Vehicles form (VC Section 23593) that acknowledged how the law works, that a fatality from an accident in the future caused by his use of alcohol or drugs could result in a murder charge.

But despite such circumstances, these cases are often difficult to prosecute. This is because there are several factors the defense may present to the court that would challenge a judge or jury to determine if the case rises to a murder conviction:

  • Driver was drinking, but not drunk – If the chemical test result fell below the legal limit or there was no chemical testing done, there may not be solid evidence that the accused driver was driving under the influence.
  • The defendant was not at fault for the collision – An accident reconstruction may determine that the collision resulting in the fatality was not the fault of the defendant.

Any individual facing murder charges in the case of an auto accident needs an experienced vehicular manslaughter attorney. The penalties for a DUI murder can include a 15-years-to-life sentence and a $10,000 fine.

- See more at: http://www.formerdistrictattorneys.com/blog/how-a-dui-charge-can-become-a-murder-case/#top

A fatal accident in Santa Barbara in 2012 provides ample evidence of how a case of driving under the influence (DUI) can escalate vehicular manslaughter to a second-degree murder charge. In that incident, two women voluntarily joy-riding on the hood of a vehicle for multiple passes over a bump in the road both fell off the car and one suffered fatal injuries. The driver charged with her death had been seen drinking and allegedly using cocaine at a party just prior to the accident.

What elevated this case to a DUI murder (also referred to as a “Watson” murder) was the fact the driver was a repeat DUI offender, including one charge that involved possession of drugs with the intent to distribute. His pleas in the prior cases involved signing a state Department of Motor Vehicles form (VC Section 23593) that acknowledged how the law works, that a fatality from an accident in the future caused by his use of alcohol or drugs could result in a murder charge.

But despite such circumstances, these cases are often difficult to prosecute. This is because there are several factors the defense may present to the court that would challenge a judge or jury to determine if the case rises to a murder conviction:

  • Driver was drinking, but not drunk – If the chemical test result fell below the legal limit or there was no chemical testing done, there may not be solid evidence that the accused driver was driving under the influence.
  • The defendant was not at fault for the collision – An accident reconstruction may determine that the collision resulting in the fatality was not the fault of the defendant.

The penalties for a DUI murder can include a 15-years-to-life sentence and a $10,000 fine.