By itself, driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated is a misdemeanor. This criminal offense though is raised to a felony as described in the case of People vs. Watson:
“The requisite culpability for the vehicular manslaughter charged here is gross negligence which has been defined as the exercise of so slight a degree of care as to raise a presumption of conscious indifference to the consequences. On the other hand, malice may be implied when a person, knowing that his conduct endangers the life of another, nonetheless acts deliberately with conscious disregard for life. Though these definitions bear a general similarity, they are not identical. Implied malice contemplates a subjective awareness of a higher degree of risk than does gross negligence, and involves an element of wantonness which is absent in gross negligence.” 30 Cal 3’d at 296. Citations omitted.
Formally called as second-degree murder, DUI murder’s elements are the following:
1. Blood alcohol level above the .08% legal limit;
2. A pre-drinking intent to drive;
3. Knowledge of the hazard of driving while intoxicated;
4. Highly dangerous driving;
The misdemeanor becomes a felony criminal act because of the presence of the theory of implied malice. Under the California Criminal Code Sec. 520, the act of driving while intoxicated is considered as an intentionally committed felony because all the logical consequences that are dangerous to life and limb are present. Furthermore, the person behind the wheel knew that driving while impaired is dangerous yet despite such knowledge, persists to continue in committing the criminal act.
All these taken together constitute DUI murder. Often, the probable cause for an officer to examine an individual driving a vehicle is the conduct of the vehicle while moving. If the movement is erratic or a violation has been committed, then an officer is empowered to examine the condition of the driver. This examination includes checking the individual’s blood alcohol concentration using a field sobriety test.
The criminal act becomes second degree murder when it is proven that the proximate cause or the act causing an unbroken chain of events lead to the death or deaths. Simply put, if the operation of the vehicle is the act which leads to the consequence of death on the road and taken together with the other elements of the crime, then the criminal act of DUI murder has been committed.
The crime of DUI murder is a serious matter in California. Should you be or know anyone facing any of these charges, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.