The Watson Murder Laws

Once you’re convicted of a DUI, your life doesn’t change much. As days go by the shame and the guilt fade, your suspensions clear, your probation goes away, you can get the charge expunged, and after 10 years, your DUI can’t be used as a prior conviction should you get another DUI.

However, there is one thing that does change for good - in California part of your conviction requires you to sign a “Watson Advisement” - which says that if you drive under the influence again and cause a fatality you may be charged with second degree murder.

There is no way to avoid signing the Watson Advisement. Technically, you can be charged with a Watson Murder the first time you’re driving under the influence and cause a fatality, but it’s hard to get the Watson laws to stick to that. Basically the Watson Advisement ups the penalties for repeat offenders.

The murder charge becomes second-degree because it acknowledges that you didn’t set out to murder the victim, but you that your taking of alcohol (or other drugs) and driving a car were both intentional acts and created “implied malice”.

A Watson Murder can result in 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and a strike under the “three strikes” law.

Once you’ve signed the Watson Advisement
it’s provisions do not expire. You can be charged 50 years after your DUI if you cause a fatality while driving under the influence.

The biggest lesson to learn from your first DUI is to find ways to avoid drinking and driving. If the possibility of being considered a murderer doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will.

DUI and Fatalities

I was fortunate in my case that there was no accident, no injuries, and no fatalities. You may not have been so lucky, in which case - again - I’m sorry. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and guilt that’s weighing on yourself, and the grief you’re catching from others. You may be wishing that it was you that died, you may be thinking some dark thoughts. While I cannot condone your actions, I cannot condemn you as a human being for one instance, one mistake.

As I’ve experienced from this whole saga, the person who beat me up the most was me. I got deeply depressed for a while, and I am still crawling out from the grief and sorrow of all of this. You can still live a good and meaningful life. It’s awful this happened, but it doesn’t have to define you for the rest of your life. If you are having dark and troubling thoughts please call: 1 (800) 273-8255

If there’s a fatality involved your case becomes a lot more complicated. It’s more difficult to give a decent idea of what you’re looking at. For this I would say
absolutely get a lawyer involved as it’s going to be very difficult to navigate.

From worst to first here’s the various outcomes:

2nd Degree Homicide.
Gulp. Even if you weren’t involved in an accident just seeing that word involved with your case is scary. It’s a reminder to never drink and drive if you can help it at all. Once you’re convicted of your first DUI you have to sign a
Watson advisement, which acknowledges that if you kill somebody in your second (or more) DUI then it can be charged as homicide. Just signing the document is scary enough… and it’s something that will stay in the back of your mind as you continue your life. If you’re found guilty the most severe penalties are up to 10 years in prison, $10,000 in fines and a charge of a Felony DUI.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
A lot of scary terms here. This one is a little bit more complicated - and you can get this one on your first offense. Basically this means that you were intoxicated and you were acting grossly negligent - and it’s a rather large thing to prove. For instance, this is what you’d be convicted of if you were completely wasted (let’s say .25) and ran through a stoplight at 60 miles per hour and hit somebody who was making a turn through the intersection and killed them. Everything you did was in gross negligence of the law, and everything you did directly lead to the person who died. If you are found to be only ordinarily negligent, you cannot be charged with this. This is heavy lawyer territory. This charge is a felony and you can serve anywhere from 4-16 years in prison, face a $10,000 fine, and be charged with a felony DUI.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
There’s two degrees to this charge - Felony and Misdemeanor. Unfortunately, there’s no clear line to say this is where they’ll charge you for one, and this is where they’ll charge you for the other. It depends on how negligent you’re found, your BAC, the amount of people killed, etc. If you just missed being found grossly negligent from above, you’ll most likely find yourself facing the felony version. The felony version can give you up to ten years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and a strike on your record, along with your felony DUI. The misdemeanor version tops out at $1,000 fine, a year in prison, but you can still be charged with a felony DUI instead of a misdemeanor DUI.
As you can see, when lives are taken, the system gets to be incredibly complicated. There’s no solid limits, and everything is up for interpretation. Which, honestly, can be good and bad, depending on your level of representation. At this point, it’s a good idea to get the best lawyer that you can’t afford, max out the credit cards, and pray for the best.

Once again, it’s all not worth it. It’s really not.

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