In 1981, the California Supreme Court decided the case of People v. Watson. Therein, the Court held that a drunk driver who causes a fatal accident can be found guilty of second degree murder. The Court’s decision has since been codified in Vehicle Code section 23593 advisal. Upon being convicted of a DUI offense in San Diego County, the court will read aloud the following statement to the defendant:
“You are hereby advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and, as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder.”
Additionally, nearly all courts in California require the signing of a “Watson” Advisement as part of a standard DUI sentencing in order to lay the foundation for prosecution of a second degree murder charge upon a subsequent DUI that results in a fatality. Upon signing the “Watson” Advisement or acknowledging the VC section 23593 advisal during sentencing, the defendant is essentially facilitating the state of California’s prosecution of him for murder if he drives drunk and kills someone in the future.
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