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Drunken driver charged with murder after multiple offenses

California doesn't play around with serial drunken drivers.

When someone in California is caught drinking and driving and subsequently convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), he or she must sign a document acknowledging that causing an accident while driving impaired will result in a charge of murder. These warnings are called "Watson Advisements."

The Watson Advisements help create a legal record that someone is completely aware of the danger he or she is causing. It's considered implied malice -- or intent -- to commit murder just by getting behind the wheel while drunk. Otherwise, a DUI that causes a death could be treated as manslaughter instead of murder, which is a much less serious charge.

The Watson Advisement took center stage in a case involving a California man whose history of driving drunk goes back to at least 2009 when he signed his first Watson advisement. He signed a second one in 2010 after being caught drunk driving yet again.

Neither incident stopped the Californian from throwing back five beers in a few hours and climbing behind the wheel of his pickup. While his blood alcohol content (BAC) was still below the limit that equals automatic legal intoxication, it was still elevated when his pickup truck slammed into two cars parked along the side of a highway in a head-on collision, killing one of the waiting drivers.

The jury found the Californian guilty of second-degree murder based on the Watson Advisements he'd signed before. He now waits to hear his sentence from the judge, knowing that it could range from 15 years to the rest of his life in prison.

It's important to take note of cases like this because many drivers, even within the state, are unaware of the Watson Advisements and how they can affect their case if they cause an accident in the future -- even if they aren't legally drunk.

Source: The Tribune, "Serial drunken driver found guilty of murder in Hwy. 101 crash," Matt Fountain, Dec. 06, 2017

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