In California, most DUIs that involve a fatal accident are charged as either vehicular manslaughter or gross vehicular manslaughter. This is because most people who drive while intoxicated do not intentionally get into an accident with the aim to take a life. However, a 1981 California Supreme Court decision made it possible for a fatal DUI accident to be charged as murder as long as certain conditions are met. The driver must have had a previous DUI and signed a Watson advisement, which is a statement acknowledging they are aware if they drive drunk and claim a life, they may be charged with murder. They can also be charged with Watson murder if they have attended DUI school for a previous DUI.
The SF Gate reports on a trial where prosecutors are asking the jury to convict a man on four charges of Watson murder.
49-year-old Fred Lowe had five prior DUI convictions when he got into a 2017 crash that killed four people. Three of the DUIs were from 1999; there was another in 2011 and then another in 2012.
At about 8:10 p.m. on November 25, Lowe was involved in a series of accidents on both sides of Interstate Highway 80 in San Pablo. A total of five vehicles were involved in the crash.
One of those vehicles was a Nissan Rogue that hit the center divider after the collision with Lowe. The Rogue then overturned and came to rest after about 100 feet. The SUV was then struck by another vehicle. Only the driver of the Nissan survived. All four of the passengers inside the vehicle were killed.
Closing arguments came last Thursday in the trial where Lowe faces four charges of second-degree murder. Prosecutors argued that Lowe had been admonished in previous DUI trials that driving drunk could kill other people.
Hours after the accident, Lowe’s blood-alcohol level was 0.14%.
Lowe’s attorney briefly argued that Lowe had not been behind the wheel at the time of the accident.