DUI 2nd degree Murder “Watson Murder

In the State of California if a person is operating a motor vehicle (or vessel) and is involved in an accident resulting in death they could be prosecuted for 2nd degree murder, also referred to as a “Watson murder.”  This type of charge is the most serious type of California DUI and is also classified as a strike.  Watson murder is different then vehicular manslaughter.  Vehicular manslaughter is operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs involving ordinary or gross negligence.  Watson murder involves allegations of malice or to put it simply a conscious disregard for human life.  In order for the prosecutor to prove Watson Murder there are 3 key components or elements of the crime that must be proven. 

1. The death was a result of an intentional act,

2. The consequences of the act were a danger to human life,

3. That the person knowingly and intentionally acted in such a matter that they had total disregard for human life.

The main difference between second-degree murder and first-degree murder is that in second-degree murder there is no intent to set out or to actively try to kill another person, which is the main fact that distinguishes DUI murder from a first-degree murder. 

It may seem that the prosecutor would not have a difficult time proving the 3 elements listed above, however, it’s the third element which makes DUI murder more difficult to prosecute.  The main reason for this element to be argued by a person’s defense attorney is because it brings the mental state of the person and it becomes a critical issue in the case. The state must prove that you acted with malice and a total disregard for human life and this can be a challenge for prosecutors.  This is main reason why DUI murder is charged less frequently then California Penal Code 191.5(a): Gross Vehicle Manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

In order for the prosecutor to prove or show implied malice the District Attorney usually tries to show that a person acted with malice by a) demonstrating that he/she had acknowledged the “Watson” admonition and b) that he or she had previously attended a court ordered DUI school.  In both of these examples it would require the person being charged to have suffered at least one prior DUI conviction.

In order to show the Watson Admonition, the prosecutor is likely to produce an exhibit, which would prove that a person had a special knowledge about the dangers and risks involved with drinking and driving.  The prosecutor most commonly accomplishes this by either:

1. Introducing at least one of the forms that the defendant signed during the plea of his/her previous DUI.  This is also referred to as a Tahl waiver, which contains the Watson Admonition. 

2. The second way is that the prosecutor may introduce a court docket or exhibit reflecting that a previous judge gave them the Watson advisement at the time of a previous DUI sentencing.

Another way the prosecutor may try to show that someone had previous or special knowledge about the consequences of drinking and driving is to show exhibits where the person attended and completed a California DUI school.  A California DUI school is used in almost DUI cases and is used in conjunction with probation.  The prosecutor will obtain the completion of this DUI school to show and prove that the person had previous knowledge about the risks of drinking and driving and can even use the course material in their argument. 

There are certain facts that are common in most California DUI murder or Watson Murder cases.  The most common are, a pre-drinking intent to take physical control of a motor vehicle.  A high blood alcohol content obtained by either a breath test or a blood test.  Displaying an extreme disregard for public safety in the persons driving behavior.  The defendant having first hand, or special knowledge, about the risks involved in drinking and driving, usually based upon a previous conviction of DUI. 

If you are convicted of a DUI second-degree Watson Murder you will face extreme penalties.  First, a sentence of fifteen years to life in a California State Prison.  Second, a fine of up to $10,000.00 plus significant restitution to families of the deceased, which could possibly include pending civil action. Lastly, a strike under the California’s three strikes law.  In addition, if there were any additional victims who sustained great bodily injury, referred commonly as GBI, then there could be an additional prison sentence of three to six years added to the base sentence. If there is one or more survivors who suffer and injury there can be an additional consecutive prison term added of one year for each victim up to a maximum of three  years.

 DUI murder is one of the most serious felony cases that can be charged, and if the DA charges the case you can be sure that they will prosecute the case aggressively with a no holds barred approach.  It is critical to hire a very experienced attorney with not only DUI experience but also trial experience.  These cases must be handled with the upmost attention to details and technicalities.  At Ross Law Center, attorney Vincent Ross has over 29 years of experience and has handled more then 4000 cases.  Our team of assistants, and hand-selected private investigators will work diligently to uncover every criminal defense strategy and angle in helping you in your case to achieve the best result.  We are proud of our service and commitment in our community and our client reviews show our commitment to excellence.  If you or a loved one are in need of a DUI or Criminal attorney call Ross Law Center and set up your free consultation today.  We will review your case and answer all your questions and the consultation is absolutely free.  Ross Law Center believes that there is “no substitute for experience. “