Watson Advisement – Murder by DUI

If you drive drunk, kill someone, and have at least one prior DUI charge, you can be charged with second degree murder.

In 1981 the California Supreme Court held, in the landmark case of People v. Watson, that someone who causes a fatal accident as a result of driving drunk can be found guilty of second degree murder based on a theory of “implied malice.” As a result, nearly all courts in California require the signing of a “Watson Advisement” as part of DUI sentencing in order to to make prosecution of a potential subsequent second degree murder case by DUI easier to prosecute.

The Watson Advisement states:

“I understand that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs my ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. I understand that it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. I understand that if I continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result of my driving, someone is killed, I can be charged with murder.”

Essentially, in signing a Watson Advisement, you are giving the state consent to charge you with murder if you drive drunk again and kill someone as a result.

Prosecutors will also use prior attendance at DUI schools, which are a customary part of probation, to prove that the defendant was expressly made aware of the dangers of driving drunk–including the potential for killing someone.

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