Fresno DUI Attorney Looks at Recent Watson Murder Case
Jul 25, 2014
A Fresno woman recently went on trial for DUI murder. What were some of the key details of her case? Why might prosecutors have charged her with murder?
Most people don't know that a DUI incident resulting in someone's death may lead to murder charges. People assume that vehicular or gross vehicular manslaughter are the most serious charges possible in such a situation.
However, in some circumstances, an individual may get charged with second-degree murder.
In the case of the woman who recently went on trial, she had apparently been caught driving while intoxicated before. This wasn't her first DUI offense. On top of that, prosecutors needed to prove that she was acting intentionally, with implied malice stemming from a disregard of the consequences of her actions on another person's life. Generally, prosecutors demonstrate this by showing that the defendant had received a 'Watson Admonition' after a prior DUI offense.
The Watson Admonition is a document signed or acknowledged verbally by someone who has been convicted of a DUI. Basically, by acknowledging the admonition you're saying that you understand how dangerous DUI is to human life and that if someone dies as a result of your DUI incident, prosecutors can charge you with second-degree murder (which in a DUI situation is often called a 'Watson murder').
Another approach prosecutors can take is to point out that after a prior DUI conviction you attended special court-ordered classes on drunk driving that should have given you the kind of knowledge spelled out in the Watson Admonition.
The woman's defense attorneys in this case have argued that she thought she was able to drive safely because, according to her testimony, she had made an effort to be sober before operating her vehicle. Her defense attorneys attempted to portray her actions not as full of implied malice, but instead as a bad judgment call.
The penalties of DUI second degree murder could be 15 years to life in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. The conviction could also be counted as a strike under California's "Three Strikes" law. If you face charges of DUI murder, don't hesitate to contact an experienced Fresno DUI attorney. Your attorney will advocate for you and make sure you're being treated fairly by the criminal justice system. Any charges brought against you need to make sense and be supported by strong evidence; you also need an attorney to craft a powerful defense on your behalf.
Michael Mitchell is a Fresno attorney who practices in the areas of DUI, personal injury & criminal law. Visit his Google+ profile.