You know that a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) is serious — and you're pretty sure that you're going to be convicted. You're just hoping that the judge will be lenient. Since it's your first DUI (and, hopefully, your last) you expect fines, probation, a suspended license and a few other hassles — but no jail time.
You will also receive what's known as the “Watson Advisement.”
The Watson Advisement can be a precursor to murder charges
The Watson Advisement is given to any defendant who is convicted (via a plea agreement or at trial) of a DUI.
It says, in part, “You are hereby advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle…If you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and, as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder.”
In California, most drunk driving deaths are charged as vehicular manslaughter, a lesser offense than murder, because murder charges require “malice aforethought” on the part of the defendant. In a 1981 case called People v. Watson, the California Supreme Court said that there is “implied malice” when a driver who knows that driving under the influence is dangerous and chooses to ignore that danger.
Once you've been given official notice via the Watson Advisement of the risks of impaired driving, your next DUI offense could easily turn into a murder charge if someone dies — whether they're a pedestrian, another driver or a passenger in your own car.
If you're facing DUI charges, it's absolutely critical that you fully understand what a conviction means for your future — before you decide whether to enter a plea or fight the charges.