Los Angeles DUI and the Watson Advisement

HandcuffsIn California, all drivers who are convicted of a driving under the influence offense will face certain mandatory sentencing requirements. One of these requirements is that the driver be informed of the inherent risk to human life that impaired driving poses and that any future driving under the influence offense in which someone loses their life can lead to the defendant being charged with murder. This notice is referred to as the “Watson advisement” after a court case that allows murder charges in fatal DUI collisions when certain conditions have been met. The Watson advisement is one of the most important parts of a defendant’s DUI sentence and judges and prosecutors take it very seriously.

The Watson Advisement that is read to all DUI defendants states the following:

“I understand that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs my ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. I understand that it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. I understand that if I continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result of my driving, someone is killed, I can be charged with murder.”

Basically, informing a defendant of the Watson advisement allows a prosecutor to charge the defendant with murder if he or she engages in impaired driving again and someone is killed as a result. In the 1981 People v. Watson decision, the California Supreme Court found that a defendant can be charged with murder following a DUI collision where there was implied malice. This means that the driver knew about the dangers that driving under the influence pose and consciously ignored these risks by drinking and driving and then killing someone else.

Tahl Waiver Includes Watson Advisement

The Watson advisement is included in the Tahl waiver, which is a written plea form that all DUI defendants are required to initial and sign prior to pleading to a DUI offense. In addition to the written advisement, some judges require that defendants be present at the time of sentencing in order to receive the Watson advisement in person. If that defendant is subsequently involved in a fatal DUI collision, the prosecutor can simply obtain a copy of the original Tahl waiver or a plea transcript to show that the defendant received the Watson advisement and thus murder charges would be appropriate.

Watson advisements are not only provided during a defendant’s DUI sentencing. Any driver who completes traffic school now receives the Watson advisement as part of the program. In addition, the Watson advisement is provided in a defendant’s required alcohol education program following a DUI conviction. This means it is difficult for a driver who is subsequently involved in a fatal DUI collision to claim that he or she did not appreciate or understand the dangers of impaired driving.

DUI Convicted of Murder Face Harsh Penaalties

Defendants who are convicted of DUI murder charges face extremely harsh penalties. DUI Murder under California Penal Code Section 187 PC is always a felony and a defendant who is convicted can be sentenced to serve 15 years to life in state prison. The defendant would also receive a strike under California’s Three Strikes Laws and would be required to pay extensive court fines and any restitution owed to the family of the victim.

If you were arrested for DUI and want more information about the Watson advisement, it is crucial that you speak with a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer immediately. Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who understands the intricacies of DUI law and knows how to effectively defend those charged with this offense.

For more information about Los Angeles DUI and the Watson advisement, and to schedule your free consultation, contact us at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

Written and updated by Attorney Michael Kraut.

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