DUI Causing Death in California



Here are some laws that apply to Monterey County drivers who cause fatal accidents.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Under California PC 191.5(b) you can be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor if, while driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, someone is killed.

The prosecutor will have to prove that the driver engaged in some type of negligent behavior, such as speeding or using a cell phone. This charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts involved.  It carries a maximum penalty of either 1-year in County jail, or 16 months to four years in state prison if it's charged as a felony.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

PC 191.5(a) is an elevated vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charge, and it involves “gross negligence.” As defined by state law, gross negligence involves acting recklessly in a manner that significantly increases the risk of injury or death and in a manner that a reasonable person would know creates substantial risks to others. For example, driving eighty miles-per-hour in a forty miles-per-hour zone would be gross negligence. 

Watson Murder

California has a unique law, also known as the "Watson murder" law, that can result in a second degree murder charge when a motorist drives under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, has previously been convicted of a DUI offense, and causes an accident in which someone dies. 

People convicted of a DUI in California are given a "Watson" advisement warning them about the serious dangers of DUI and that they can face murder charges if they drive under the influence again and cause death.  As the most serious DUI charge one can face, Watson murder is punishable by 15 years to life in prison.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Many people are unaware that California has a distinct and separate charge for causing fatal accidents. “Vehicular manslaughter” and “Vehicular Manslaughter with Gross Negligence” can be charged when a sober motorist causes a death because of negligent driving.  In some cases, a more serious charge can be plea-bargained down to a vehicular manslaughter charge.

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