If you killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol and were charged with a DUI, you may face the charge for DUI murder, which is a regular second-degree murder charge under California Penal Code 187. Understanding this charge and the penalties will help you better understand what legal actions you must take immediately to attempt to defend yourself against this charge.
If you are involved in an accident that involves the death of another person while you were driving while intoxicated and have no prior DUI convictions on your record, you will likely be charged with either vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. If you had a prior DUI conviction and subsequently killed another person in an accident where you were intoxicated, you will be charged with DUI murder.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
If you have never had a prior DUI conviction, and someone dies in an accident where you were driving under the influence of alcohol, you may be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. This is a common charge when a death occurs due to alcohol in an accident. However, the prosecution must still show that you did something other than driving under the influence that showed additional negligence such as texting while driving, failing to obey a traffic sign, or behaved in some sort of activity that was risky or illegal. This misdemeanor will result in up to a year in jail, plus a fine of $1,000 plus all the additional penalties of a California DUI.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a more serious charge than vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. This charge may be considered a felony under certain circumstances and the charge rests on the theory that you did something so reckless along with driving while intoxicated that any normal person would understand that the consequences could be deadly. If convicted of this charge, you may face four or more years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
DUI murder is not a separate charge from second-degree murder in California. Second-degree murder does not mean that a person had any intention of killing another person, and there was no “implied malice” when an intoxicated person got behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated.
However, if death did occur due to an accident while you were intoxicated, you may be charged with “Watson murder.” Watson murder is a form of second-degree murder in the State of California when a person with a prior California DUI conviction kills someone when driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. DUI murder charges include up to 15 years in state prison and up to $10,000 fine. If other people were also injured in the accident, you may face an additional three-to-six years in prison for the first injured person, and up to one year in prison for each additional person, up to three years maximum.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you or a loved one are facing a DUI charge that includes a death, contact the Law Office of Stein & Markus to discuss your rights and options for your defense at (562) 512-7030, or online today.
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