In California, if your DUI causes the death of another person or persons, there are three ways the prosecutor can charge you. While all are serious charges, the first is the least serious charge, which is vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. This can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The second way it can be charged is always a felony. That is gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The third way a prosecutor can charge it is by charging second-degree murder. This charge is also sometimes called DUI murder or Watson murder. The third charge, while the most serious, is also the rarest.
The OC Register reports that a man has been convicted of murder in a wrong-way DUI crash.
Ivan Gonzalez has twice pleaded guilty to DUI charges. The first was on June 30, 2016 and the second time was on February 27th, 2017.
On January 5, 2018, Gonzalez was driving the wrong way on the “flyover” connector from the 5 Freeway to the 55 Freeway. According to police, who chased Gonzalez, speeds reached above 100 m.p.h. and they were unable to catch up to him.
He slammed into a 2000 Ford Mustang being driven by 33-year-old Michael Johnston, Jr in the northbound HOV lane. Johnston was killed in the crash. The “black box” from the Camry Gonzalez was driving showed that the car was traveling at 99.52 m.p.h. just seconds before the crash.
Three hours after the crash, Gonzalez had a blood-alcohol level of .20% to .21%, nearly three times the legal limit. He had also just signed up for a DUI class and met with an alcohol counselor.
Gonzalez’s attorney argued that in the moments before the crash, Gonzalez was unconscious, so he lacked the “malice aforethought” necessary to be guilty of second-degree murder.
A jury deliberated for about an hour before convicting Gonzalez of second-degree murder, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, and driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level exceeding .08%. The jury also found the sentencing enhancement of inflicting great bodily injury to be true.
Gonzalez will be sentenced on January 3rd. He faces 18 years to life in prison.