Proponents of strict DUI laws in California which includes Los Angeles and Orange Counties have lobbied legislators in California for strict DUI laws when it comes to a DUI involving the death of a pedestrian, driver or passengers in another vehicle. Many persons arrested, charged and/or convicted of DUI involving injury or death to another have very little or no criminal record. Many persons for the first time are involved in the criminal justice system under the most serious of charges including Murder and Manslaughter as it relates to killing another person while driving under the influence.
In most cases where a person pleads guilty to a DUI or similar alcohol related driving offense including pleas of guilty or no contest to Wet Reckless charges, a Judge will remind a person that if a person kills another while driving under the influence they can be charged with murder. Such warning is not only true but probably the single greatest reason that DUI laws in the United States including California are so stringent.
If you kill a person while driving under the influence in California including Los Angeles and Orange County, you can be charged with Second Degree Murder commonly known as a “Watson Murder.” Under a Second Degree Murder charge, a person is accused of intentionally committing a dangerous act with knowledge of the danger to, and with conscious disregard for, human life. This implied malice is set forth in California Penal Code section 187 as an alternative means of finding intent for murder. If convicted of Second Degree Murder in California, a person faces up to 15 years to life in prison pursuant to Penal Code section 190(a).
Depending on the circumstances of and egregiousness of the accident, prosecutors do have the option of charging a person with Vehicular Manslaughter which carries a sentence as low as 1 year in County Jail or up to 6 years in state prison for vehicular manslaughter convictions involving gross negligence under California Penal Code section 191.5. A person accused of such a serious crime, should always attempt to consult with and/or retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. Often times a person’s past criminal record and their blood alcohol level will dictate whether an experienced DUI defense attorney can get the case dismissed or reduced to a charge involving little or no jail time.