Although still rare, prosecutors in more and more Northern California counties chose to file vehicular murder charges in serious DUI cases. Vehicular murder is typically second degree murder and is usually reserved for very serious cases where a convicted DUI offender is accused of driving recklessly and intoxicated thereby causing a collision resulting in death. In such cases prosecutors refer back to the murder advisement now given in every single DUI case. In California all people convicted of DUI are advised by the court of the danger of driving drunk and the potential of future vehicular murder charges if the person drives drunk again and thereby causes the death of another. The deceased person can be another motorist, a pedestrian, a cyclist, or even a passenger in the same vehicle as the accused person.
Murder charges involving a vehicle may also be charged in non-DUI cases. A car can be considered a deadly weapon or deadly object under California law and therefore an intentional assault with a car that results in death can be charged as second degree or even first degree murder. Unlike a DUI related vehicle murder case where the prosecution may rely on the prior DUI conviction to satisfy the element of intent, the prosecution in a non-DUI vehicle murder case would have to bring other direct or circumstantial evidence of intent to kill or reckless disregard for human life.
At DWB Law, we have handled several cases involving DUI related deaths. As former prosecutors and defense attorneys we have been trained in how to handle such serious cases. We have participated in multiple investigations including major injury and death accident reconstruction. If you have a prior DUI conviction and have been involved in an accident where someone has been seriously injured or killed, don’t wait to contact us. The prosecutors often wait to file charges until the law enforcement investigation is complete. This is valuable time that can be used to your advantage in conducting an independent investigation and negotiating with the DA regarding the nature of the charges that may be filed.