Any DUI / DWI charge can have difficult and far-reaching consequences, but drunk driving incidents that result in death are especially serious. DUI / DWI cases involving death generally fall into three different categories – vehicular homicide, manslaughter, and second-degree murder. An experienced California DUI / DWI attorney can launch an aggressive defense to each of these charges.
Felony second-degree murder charges are brought when it is believed that the drunk driver acted with implied malice, or a conscious disregard for human life. The charge is unusual in a DUI / DWI case, because it’s extremely difficult to prove implied malice on the part of a drunk driver.
However, if the driver has prior DUI / DWI convictions, a prosecutor can use those priors to show that the defendant knew the dangers of drunk driving, but chose to get behind the wheel anyway. In California, a defendant who pleads guilty or no contest to a drunk driving charge must admit to that knowledge either in court, or through a signed admission. This admission, known as a “Watson warning”, can be used as evidence that the person acted with implied malice in a subsequent prosecution for second-degree murder.
Prosecutors work hard to gather evidence that points to the defendant’s guilt. A lawyer who focuses on drunk driving criminal defense will employ independent experts to uncover evidence that points to the defendant’s innocence.
One of the most important aspects of an aggressive defense is independent accident reconstruction. A good defense attorney will hire an expert in accident reconstruction to take photographs, analyze skid marks and other physical evidence, and uncover possible mechanical failures or other factors that may have contributed to the crash.
An independent defense expert also can analyze factors of the underlying drunk driving charge. One of the most common errors in a DUI / DWI case involves the chemical test of the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). Because most chemical tests are conducted hours after an accident or arrest, they are often inaccurate. Remember, it’s not against the law to have a BAC of .08 or greater at the police station – only behind the wheel of a car. A skilled defense analyst may be able to show that the driver’s BAC rose after an accident because his or her body continued to absorb alcohol.
Because the consequences of a drunk driving death are so severe, it’s critical to have superb legal representation to protect the driver. An experienced California DUI / DWI lawyer can ensure that the driver receives the best possible defense, and keep negative consequences to a minimum.