When a person is convicted of a DUI in California, they are usually given something called a Watson advisement. This document, which they sign, tells them that if they are involved in a DUI accident that causes the death of another person, they may be charged with murder. Normally, in order to convict a person of DUI murder, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant has signed such an advisement. They may also try and prove that the person, through experience or employment, knew of the dangers of drinking and driving. Without these facts, a prosecutor may have difficulty proving a DUI murder charge.
The San Juan Capistrano Patch reports that the trial over a fatal DUI crash that killed three teenagers is underway.
29-year-old Bani Marcela Duarte is charged with three counts of second-degree murder, driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, and a sentencing enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury.
The charges stem from a March 29, 2018 crash that killed 17-year-old Brooke Hawley, 18-year-old Dylan Mack, and 17-year-old Albert Rossi. A fourth person, Alexis Vargas, managed to escape the crashed vehicle, suffering from second-degree burns.
A post-crash blood-alcohol test showed that Duarte’s blood-alcohol level was .28%. She was so drunk that she was unaware that she was driving north when her home was south. She made a left turn so wide that she struck the curb and got out to inspect the damage. This, prosecutors say, should have been enough for her to realize that she was too intoxicated to drive.
After the first accident, Duarte was allegedly speeding up to make a red light, going 79 in a 45-m.p.h. zone. She then slammed into the back of a Toyota Camry carrying the victims.
The prosecutor also said that at one time, Duarte responded to a friend’s Instagram posts about a drunken-driving crash that she had taken an Uber when she went out drinking to be “safe rather than sorry.”
Duarte’s defense attorney, however, argues that because Duarte never signed a Watson advisement, that she cannot be found guilty of second-degree murder under California law.