By Paul J. Wallin of Wallin & Klarich, A Law Corporation
Crimes involving vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (DUI manslaughter) and Watson Murder are prosecuted very seriously in the state of California. Prosecutors will use their discretion in their investigation to aggressively file charges against you. That is why it is critical that you immediately retain an experienced criminal law firm if you are arrested for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or Watson Murder.
If you are under investigation for one of these serious crimes, you should not wait to be arrested. If you take action before being charged, a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to prevent charges from being filed against you during a pre-filing investigation.
What is a Pre-Filing Investigation?
A pre-filing investigation takes place when a person is under investigation for a crime but has yet to be formally charged. During a pre-filing investigation, law enforcement agents will do everything in their power to build a case that will convince the prosecution to file charges against you.
If you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney before charges are filed, your attorney will be able to make sure prosecutors are using legal tactics and not overstepping their boundaries.
Pre-filing Investigations and DUI Manslaughter While Intoxicated
According to California Penal Code Section 191.5, DUI manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. To be convicted of this crime, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- You committed an unlawful act or an otherwise lawful act that might cause death;
- You acted with ordinary negligence; and
- Your negligent conduct caused the death of another.1
What a Skilled Attorney Will Do For You in your Pre-Filing Investigation Case
First, an attorney will contact the police officer assigned to your case and will often provide him or her with favorable information about you. The police officer will typically include this information in the documents that he or she submits to the prosecutor, which can be very beneficial to the outcome of your case.
Next, a skilled attorney will attempt to speak with the filing District Attorney to convince him or her to either file less severe charges against you, or to file no charges at all.
When you attorney speaks to the prosecutor, who will be deciding whether to file charges against you, he or she will present the legal defenses available in your case. The attorney will also discuss with the prosecutor your positive “social history.” This may include, but is not limited to, your lack of a criminal record, your solid work history, and your involvement in any religious or charitable organizations. It is also important for the attorney to advise the prosecution if you are the sole financial supporter of your family.
Pre-filing Investigations and Watson Murder
Under California Penal Code Section 187, you can be charged with second degree murder, or Watson Murder, if you drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and someone dies as a result of your conduct. 2
To be convicted of this crime, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed an act that caused the death of another, you committed the crime with malice aforethought, and you killed without lawful justification.
If you hire a criminal defense attorney before Watson Murder charges are filed against you, your attorney will closely review all police procedures that were conducted in your case, including their notes on your appearance, mental state and any sobriety tests that were conducted.
Field sobriety tests are subjective, and it is up to the police officer to determine if a person passes or fails. This can put the accused at a disadvantage. A breathalyzer test to measure blood alcohol content is not always 100% accurate, and the results can vary based on height, weight and body temperature. Your attorney will scrutinize every detail of your arrest to ensure the objectivity of the police procedures utilized in your case.
In a Watson murder investigation, an attorney would attempt to persuade the prosecuting attorney to file a reduced charge of vehicular homicide rather than Watson Murder. If your lawyer is successful in his attempt, you would be facing from 2 to 6 years in prison as a maximum sentence, which is the punishment for vehicular manslaughter, as opposed to a possible 15 year to life sentence for a second degree Watson murder conviction.
Retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney when you discover you are being investigated may make the difference between having a felony criminal record and going to jail, or having no charges filed against you.