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DUI Watson Murder Cases

DUI Watson Murder Cases - Second Degree Murder With Implied Malice

A person can be charged with second degree murder arising out of a DUI accident that causes death to another person. These types of cases are often referred to as Watson murder cases, taken from the name of a 1981 California Supreme Court cases entitled People v. Watson. In that case, the Supreme Court held that a DUI driver who causes a fatal accident can be charged with a violation of Penal Code section 187 if the driver acted with implied malice. 

To prove a person is guilty of second degree murder with implied malice arising out of a DUI accident, the prosecutor must prove:

  1. The person committed an act that caused the death of another person (driving under the influence); and
  2. When the person acted he/she had a state of mind called malice aforethought. 

Malice aforethought can be express or implied. In Watson murder cases, it is always implied malice. To prove implied malice, a prosecutor must show:

  1. A person intentionally committed an act (in this case driving under the influence); 
  2. The natural and probable consequences of the act were dangerous to human life; 
  3. At the time the person acted, they knew the act was dangerous to human life; and 
  4. The person acted with deliberate and conscious disregard for human life. 

Who Can be Charged with Watson Murder?

Historically, persons with prior DUIs who subsequently get into a DUI accident causing death are the people most often charged with DUI murder. This is because at the time of the prior conviction, the persons was read a "Watson Advisement," which puts them on notice that driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both is inherently dangerous to human life. Once this is done, it helps the prosecutor prove that the person knew that driving under the influence was dangerous to human life, which is often the most difficult element of proof. 

Additionally, people with prior DUIs most likely attended a DUI class, during which they were repeatedly given the same Watson Advisement. Prosecutors can again use this fact to establish the person knew driving under the influence was inherently dangerous to human life. 

Not all people facing Watson Murder charges have prior DUIs. Our firms has seen cases where different circumstances are used in order to meet that element of the charge. 

Punishment for Watson Murder Charges

Watson murder charges are second degree murder charges. Second degree murder carries a punishment of 15 years to life in the state prison. These are very serious charges, and require a team effort to fight back against. 

Get the Right Team on Your Side

Bartell, Hensel & Gressley has defended thousands of DUI cases, including many serious DUI death cases. Our lawyers train other attorneys across the nation on DUI defense. Our firm wrote the leading treatise on DUI defense, which is used by lawyers across the country. Who you hire can make all the difference in your case. Call us today at (951) 788-2230 to get our team of DUI lawyers on your case.

For over 30 years our firm has defended hundreds of serious DUI cases. Our firm wrote the leading treatise on DUI defense used by DUI attorneys across the country. 

Bartell, Hensel & Gressley has offices in Temecula and Riverside, and practices throughout Riverside, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Murrieta, and Orange County. 

We understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most challenging times of your life. Rely on us to advocate for your rights and to give you the defense you deserve.


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