In California, a DUI murder charge can typically only occur when the suspect has a previous DUI. Not only this, but they must have been admonished by a judge that if they get another DUI and someone is killed, they can be charged with murder. They can also sign what is known as a Watson agreement, acknowledging that they are aware of a potential murder charge. It can also be charged if they attended DUI school. However, prosecutors in California are beginning to charge DUI murder even if these conditions have not been met, particularly in egregious cases.
The Ventura County Star reports on a man denied appeal on a DUI murder conviction.
Last month, a state appellate court declined to hear the case of 29-year-old Kevin Hogrefe, who had been convicted of second-degree murder in a 2014 DUI crash that killed a Ventura County sheriff’s deputy.
Hogrefe was convicted in October 2016 by a jury of the charges of second-degree murder and felony fleeing the scene of an accident that killed Yehven “Eugene” Kostiuchenko.
Hogrefe was driving a vehicle that struck Kostiuchenko on October 28, 2014, as the deputy was conducting a traffic stop. Two hours after the crash, Hogrefe’s blood-alcohol content was at 0.23%, nearly three times the legal limit.
Hogrefe’s appeal attorney argued in a brief filed March 20th in the 2nd District Court of Appeals that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Hogrefe of murder. The attorney further argued that Hogrefe couldn’t get a fair trial due to media coverage of the incident, which caused jury bias.
Hogrefe is currently serving a 15-year to life sentence at Pleasant Family State Prison in Fresno County.