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Defenses to a DUI Watson Murder Case

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Oct 30, 2023

For those people who are charged with a Watson murder, they are facing a 15 to life sentence, and obviously, figuring out a good defense makes sense under the circumstances. 

“Watson murder,” also known as “DUI murder,” is a type of Penal Code 187 PC second-degree murder in California. It can be charged when someone with a prior DUI conviction causes a fatality while driving drunk or under the influence of drugs.

First, you have to realize that usually, you can't be charged with murder unless you have the intent to kill.  So, that's why this unique concept of a Watson murder confuses people because most people would say look, I didn't intend to kill anybody.  A death occurred, but it happened because of some accident that was more like negligence than my intention to kill someone.

The problem is that the law has carved out an exception as it relates to when you drink and drive, use drugs and drive, or both, and you end up killing somebody.  What they do is they infer your intent because you're making moves that likely are foreseeable that you could kill somebody. 

If you're going to drink a bunch of alcohol and you know you're going to have to drive your car to get away from the bar, for example, and you do that, and you kill somebody, they're going to say this is implied malice

This means you don't care about anybody, so you drink and drive. You should have thought about it before you went out that night before you started drinking because people are typically deciding whether or not they will drive after they've had drinks.  You're going to be impaired and not be able to make the right decision.  So, that gives you a foundation for how they're even filing the Watson murder cases in the first place.

You Did Not Cause the Accident

So, one defense would be that you didn't cause the accident.  Let's say that you have alcohol in your system, and you're over a .08, but somebody runs a red light and crashes into you, and they end up dying, and you get arrested for a DUI.  They charge a Watson murder because a death resulted. 

You might be able to argue in that scenario that the person running the red light caused their death.  You didn't cause a death.  Whether you were intoxicated or not had nothing to do with it whatsoever. 

That's the problem you start with in these Watson murders and even felony DUIs.  If you were drinking and driving and you're over a .08, the law presumes that the accident is your fault, and you have to rebut the presumption with evidence to show that the accident was not your fault.  So, that's one potential defense.

Lack of Knowledge

Another defense that has been used many times over the years, which is starting to lose traction, is that you had no idea that whatever you were doing would cause a death.  For example, somebody says, I didn't know if I drank alcohol, I could kill somebody.

Watson Murder in California

That's why they were giving people and still are giving people the Watson admonishment.  They're telling people that drinking and driving is hazardous.  If you drink, drive, and kill somebody, you could be charged with second-degree murder.  When you do the classes, the classes also tell you that drinking and driving are hazardous, so those people with prior DUIs would be susceptible to being warned, and then they can imply their intent.

But in today's society, I'm telling you right now, in Los Angeles, where my main office is based, they're filing DUIs and Watson murders left and right.  If someone's drinking and driving, using drugs, and driving, somebody dies. As a result, they're going to file a Watson murder because their argument is everybody now knows because of mothers against drunk driving and the media that if you drink and drive, then somebody could die.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with a Watson murder, put my 30 years of experience to work for you.  Pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.