Skip to main content

California DUI Murder a.k.a. The Watson Murder Rule!

Posted by attorney Gabriel Dorman
Filed under: DUI defense Second DUI

In California, a DUI resulting in the death of another human being is known as a “Watson Murder." The “Watson Murder" or "Watson Murder Rule" originated with the case of People v. Watson, in which a multiple DUI offender's prior convictions were used to prosecuted him for second-degree murder under the legal theory of “implied malice".

“Implied Malice" second-degree murder can best be summarized as follows: “I know what I am doing is dangerous to human life, but I don’t care, I am going to do it anyway!"

“Watson Murder" prosecutions are generally, but not exclusively, applied to individuals with prior DUI convictions. An individual's prior conviction(s) often makes it are easier to prove "implied malice" because their prior conviction puts them on notice of the inherent dangers of drinking and driving. In almost all cases, the person has already attended alcohol educations classes where they learned about the dangers of drinking and driving. As such, what the person may not have known the first time they got a DUI, cannot be said for the second or subsequent DUI.

As a matter of fact, in an effort to make future Watson Murder prosecutions easier, all California courts, including all Los Angeles and Orange County DUI courts, require a defendant to sign a waiver advising them of the dangers of DUI and the potential consequences if they do it again and hit and kill someone in the process. The advisement is referred to as "The Watson Advisement" which states as follows:

I understand that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs my ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therfore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. 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.

This way, if that person happens to drink and drive again, and in the process, hits and kills someone with their car, their is a signed notice on file with the court acknowledging they knew it was dangerous but did in anyway …implied malice has been established for purposes of a "Watson Murder".

Additional resources provided by the author

Author of this guide:

Was this guide helpful?

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer