Newark Driver Charged with Gross Vehicular Manslaughter in DUI Case (CA Penal Code 191.5(a))

35-year-old (name withheld for privacy) was travelling down I-880 at around 1:30 a.m. when, after some kind of fight with another motorist, he was involved in a multiple car collision.  The crash left him dead and others watching the remnants of an exploded Ford Ranger belonging to a Newark man, who was later arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.  Another 18-year-old driver and his Dodge Magnum were involved in the accident, but he managed to leave the scene before police arrived. Local law enforcement officials also later arrested him at his Hayward home on DUI charges.

No one can yet be certain of the chain of events leading to the accident.  However, if either suspect is found to be responsible for the man’s death, both could be looking at some serious penalties pursuant to (CA Penal Code 191.5(a)) “Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated.” However, because there was an alleged altercation that precipitated the crash, this case could fall under (CA Penal Code 187) a DUI second degree murder charge, otherwise known as a “Watson Murder.”

In the state of California, a “Watson Murder” is the worst of DUI felonies to be charged with (see People v. Watson, 1981).  When a person is charged with a “Watson Murder,” it is because the arresting officers believe that their state of intoxication was the cause of a traffic accident in which another person was killed.  Of course, prosecutors must be able to prove that the alleged offender purposefully acted in such a way that they consciously ignored the threat to human life (driving recklessly while intoxicated, for example).  This is difficult to prove because it involves determining a person’s internal mental state at the time of the alleged DUI.  However, if convicted, the penalties for a “Watson Murder” are severe with a maximum $10,000 fine and the possibility of 15 years to life in state prison.