Southern California roads are filled with drivers, so it’s no surprise that car accidents happen every day. However, repairing car damage and higher insurance rates aren’t the only thing you have to worry about when it comes to car accidents. When vehicle collisions cause the death of a driver or passenger, it could lead to serious criminal charges.
You may be familiar with the term “vehicular manslaughter” and understand that you could face this charge if you caused the death of someone while driving. But there are also other crimes that you could be accused of, including Watson murder. So, what crime will you be charged with?
Watson Murder (PC 187) vs. Gross Vehicular Manslaughter (PC 191.5(a))
In order to understand what crime you could be charged with, it is important to first understand the definition of Watson murder and gross vehicular manslaughter.
Under California Penal Code Section 191.5(a), gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is when you drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and the result is the unlawful killing of a human being without premeditation or malice aforethought. This means you did not intend to cause the murder, but you:
- Drove a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,
- Committed an unlawful act (misdemeanor or infraction) while driving the vehicle or an otherwise lawful act that might cause death,
- Committed the act with gross negligence AND
- Caused the death of another person by your grossly negligent conduct
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Under the Watson murder rule, you could be charged with second degree murder if you drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and someone dies as a result of your conduct. A conviction for this crime carries more serious penalties. If you are convicted of Watson murder, you face 15 years to life in prison and a $10,000 fine. So how could you face Watson murder charges instead of gross vehicular manslaughter charges?
Watson Murder Over Manslaughter
In order to convict you of Watson murder, the prosecution must prove that you:
- Committed an act that caused the death of another,
- Had a state of mind called “malice aforethought,” and
- Killed without lawful justification
The key difference between Watson murder and gross vehicular manslaughter is the requirement of malice. For this crime, malice can be implied. To show that you acted with implied malice, the prosecution must prove that you knew the act of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol was dangerous to human life. So, how can it be proved that you knew driving under the influence was dangerous?
The best way to prove this is if you have a prior DUI conviction on your record. If you are convicted of DUI in California, you must sign a form consenting that you are aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The prosecution could use this form to prove that you knew what you were doing was dangerous. That is why you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you are facing Watson murder charges.
Contact the DUI Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one are facing serious criminal charges, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled and knowledgeable lawyers have over 35 years of experience successfully defending our clients facing murder and DUI charges. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, you can find a dedicated Wallin & Klarich DUI attorney available near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us at (877) 4-NO- JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.