In California, a DUI that leads to the death of another person is generally charged as either vehicular manslaughter or gross vehicular manslaughter. There are circumstances where it may be charged as second-degree murder. It’s also known as “Watson” murder, named for the 1981 case where the California Supreme Court decided that in certain circumstances, a DUI could be charged as murder. Generally, the suspect has to have had a previous DUI before a murder charge can be prosecuted. However, there are certain circumstances where a prosecutor may proceed with a murder charge without a previous DUI conviction.
NBC Los Angeles reports on a man facing a murder charge after an accident killed a CHP officer.
36-year-old Michael Joseph is facing a second-degree murder charge after an alleged DUI accident where he struck and killed CHP officer Steve Licon. The accident happened on the afternoon of April 7th as Licon pulled over a speeder along the side of the 15 Freeway.
The reason behind the murder charge is partially due to a previous DUI conviction in 2004. Joseph was sentenced to three years of summary probation in that case. He was also required to attend Mothers Against Drunk Driving classes, which made him aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated.