Long story short it is illegal to drink and drive. The legal limit of alcohol in one’s system varies depending on age. If one is under 21, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is to be under 0.01%, and for someone 21 or older their BAC is to be under 0.08%. The basic penalties for conviction of DUI’s are broad and differ for each situation.
One could be jailed on their first offense for anywhere between four days to six months, be fined up to $1,000, and have their license suspended for up to ten months. Although this may seem a bit intense, it is necessary. If the driver is lucky enough to get pulled over for swerving or poor driving, they are charged with a misdemeanor.
However, if someone is killed, the driver can be charged with second degree murder, or “Watson Murder”, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Watson Murder is a California law that came about after a court case in 1981. Watson murder is the worst conviction one can get, having the harshest penalties. The basic meaning for this law is the negligence to human life in a car accident.
While the driver felt they could drive themselves to their destination, they intentionally got in their car and decided to drive, disregarding the lives of others on the road. This intention of driving, with the most important factor being the knowledge that they were under the influence and not supposed to drive, is what makes the conviction second degree murder, and causes the most penalties.
It is, however, the hardest to prove. Can you really prove someone got in their car with the intention of malice? This is said to be the most difficult because the prosecution has to show the drivers mental state at the time the accident occurred. Most of these situations, the drivers did not intend to hurt someone else, but it is in the Watson Murder law that helps make this decision.
In the law, one has to be pulled over and charged with a DUI once before, and had to have signed the Watson advisement, acknowledging the dangers of driving under the influence. Previous convictions have to have happened in order for the Watson Murder Law to take precedent in the case, but if not, malice is quite difficult to prove in many DUI/DWI cases.