DUI Incidents Often Involve Other Serious Charges
We all know that a DUI conviction can result in fines, jail time, and the loss of your driver’s license; as well as damage to your reputation and your ability to obtain certain licenses and jobs. But, depending on the circumstances of the arrest, a DUI can lead to other serious charges. Let’s look at some of those situations.
DUI and Child Endangerment
If you’re arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, and you have a child under the age of 14 in the car with you, the district attorney can charge you with DUI plus an enhancement. This would make the potential penalties harsher and include mandatory jail time.
In a worst-case scenario, the prosecutor could charge you with two separate crimes: DUI and child endangerment. Child endangerment can be a misdemeanor of felony offense. If convicted of felony child endangerment, you could serve up to four years in state prison, plus whatever your DUI penalties are determined to be. In addition, you could end up on a child abuser registry, where your name will remain for the rest of your life.
Whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or felony could depend on your level of intoxication, how poorly you were driving, and whether the child was injured in an accident.
DUI Hit and Run
In California, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident if there is property damage or injury to a person. Failure to stay at the scene is considered a hit-and-run offense. Many times, a driver who has been drinking will flee the scene of a crash for fear of getting a DUI charge. This will only make matters worse, because you can be charged with both DUI and hit-and-run, even if the collision was the other driver’s fault.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
If you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol and drive with negligence, which results in another person’s death, you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. You can also be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The difference is whether the traffic violation was considered to fall under ordinary negligence or gross negligence. You can think of ordinary negligence as regular carelessness, such as inattention or a mistake in judgment. Gross negligence would be thought of as acting in a way that creates a high risk of great bodily injury or death, such as speeding, driving recklessly, or running a red light. The penalties for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated are more severe. Of course, a judge or prosecutor could view the act of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol as an act of gross negligence in and of itself, and charge you with the more serious offense. The deceased person in such cases doesn’t have to be driver or passenger of another vehicle: it could be a passenger in your car, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist.
DUI Charged as Murder (“Watson Murder”)
“Watson murder” is a form of 2nd-degree murder that takes its name from a landmark 1981 California case – People v. Watson. In that case, the court ruled that a DUI driver who causes a fatal motor vehicle accident can be convicted of 2nd-degree murder if it can be proven that he or she acted with “implied malice.” Implied malice is usually interpreted as any action that demonstrates a conscious disregard for human life. For the most part, offenders are only charged with “Watson murder” if they’ve had a prior DUI conviction and have:
a.) attended a California DUI school, or
b.) been read a “Watson admonition.”
A “Watson admonition” is a warning given to convicted DUI offenders in California. It advises that driving under the influence is gravely dangerous to human life, and that due to their prior convictions, should a future DUI offense cause the death of another person, they can be charged with murder.
Contact an Experienced L.A. DUI Defense Legal Team
All DUI charges are serious. They can severely impact a person’s future and freedom. If you’ve been charged with a DUI-related offense, it’s important to realize that conviction is not a done deal. Blood alcohol content (BAC) testing is notoriously inaccurate, and the results can often be successfully contested. A breath BAC device may not be calibrated correctly, and blood and urine samples can be contaminated when taken or in the lab. A thorough investigation by an experienced DUI defense attorney may get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
Your future, freedom, and ability to provide for your family are the most precious things you have. Don’t let overzealous law enforcement take them away from you. Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP has been protecting the rights of Los Angeles drivers since 1994. Let us put our considerable knowledge, skills, and resources to work on your case. Call (213) 688-0460 for a free initial consultation.