In California, even though only a fraction of DUIs involve accidents, these are the ones which are taken most seriously by law. In California, DUI causing injury can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The injured person or persons can have either been in the car the intoxicated person was driving or in the other car involved in the collision. As long as the injuries were relatively minor, the charge may be a misdemeanor. However, if the injuries are serious, the charge will most likely be a felony. As to what defines a “serious” injury, broken bones can be considered a serious injury. The Press-Enterprise reports on a man with a previous DUI conviction facing DUI causing injury as well as DUI murder charges.
29-year-old Elias Ceja Lemus, Jr., was involved in a wrong-way suspected DUI crash on August 10th. According to the California Highway Patrol, Lemus was driving west in the eastbound lanes on the 91 Freeway in Riverside.
At about 1:45 a.m., he struck an oncoming vehicle carrying 74-year-old Ethyl Granados, 52-year-old Fatima Granados, and an unnamed third person, who was male.
The collision killed both Fatima and Ethyl and seriously injured the third passenger.
Superior Court records indicate that Lemus was convicted of misdemeanor DUI in 2009.
Under California law, a DUI that causes a fatality is normally charged as gross vehicular manslaughter, but a previous DUI conviction can cause the charge to become second-degree murder. It is often called a “Watson” murder, after a 1981 court decision that set precedence for a fatality caused by an intoxicated driver being charged as murder.
Lemus is charged with two counts of second-degree murder as well as two counts of DUI causing injury. He is currently being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center. Bail has been set at $2 million.