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Why Are Murder Charges Filed for Driving Deaths?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | May 22, 2024

The common question is, why are prosecutors in Los Angeles County filing California Penal Code 187 PC murder charges related to deaths on the road?

For those people who have been arrested and charged with murder about a driving-related death on the road, either they or their families are searching for answers.

This is especially true in Los Angeles County, which, throughout the last few years, the district attorney's office has made the decision that if somebody is either drinking or driving and causes death on the road or driving extremely recklessly and causes death on the road, instead of filing a manslaughter charge, the prosecutors are filing murder charges.

Watson DUI Murder

The reason they do that is probably a political one. Still, the way they're able to do it is because you usually wouldn't be able to charge somebody for murder who didn't intend to kill somebody.

Watson DUI Murder

Still, they can imply the malice necessary for murder by making the argument that the person drank and drove and basically should have known, based on the circumstances, that they were going to have to get in the car after they drank, so they should have foreseen they might kill somebody if they drank alcohol and then drove later.

A Watson DUI Murder is the California state offense of implied malice murder while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A Watson murder under California law is a form of second-degree murder that is charged in cases where someone dies as a result of another driver's intoxicated driving.

The name Watson comes from a California appellate decision, People v. Watson, which confirmed that a DUI defendant acting with implied malice could properly be charged with murder.

Based on the court's ruling, you can be charged with murder if you drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and somebody is killed as a result of your conduct.

The Watson murder rule allows the prosecution to charge this crime, which is normally charged as vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, as second-degree murder under California Penal Code 187.

The intoxicant can be either drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. The critical question in Watson murder cases is whether or not the intoxicated driver acted with implied malice.

Reckless Driving

The other angle they use is somebody driving extremely fast, recklessly, and dangerously and operating a vehicle in such a way that is inherently dangerous to the rest of society.

That person they are going to deem very dangerous. They're going to imply malice for purposes of murder, and they'll charge them for murder as well.

The scary thing about that, in addition to looking at a 15 to life sentence if you're convicted of second-degree murder, is a lot of times, jurors are very vicious when it comes to these types of cases, even if the evidence is weak against the person, for purposes of murder.

It is more likely it should be a vehicular manslaughter case; jurors sometimes will find a person guilty because of the egregious facts that present themselves in some of these deaths related to dangerous driving on our roadways.

Highly-Experienced Murder Defense Lawyer

So, you want to get a defense attorney who has a lot of experience handling these vehicular manslaughter/murder cases - someone who's been down the road you're about to travel and has success. I've been handling these cases now for over 30 years. I know the inner workings of the district attorney's office and what it takes to get you the best result.

If you need the best, pick up the phone now. Make the call. Set up a meeting with Ron Hedding. We will review the entire case, brainstorm a strategy, and do everything possible to get the best result.

Review why prosecutors in Los Angeles County are filing California Penal Code 187 PC charges related to deaths on the road, such as a Watson DUI murder.

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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.