Each year, approximately 11,000 people are killed in drunk driving accidents across the United States. This calculates to around 29 deaths per day. In 2017, 1,120 of those deaths took place in California alone.
In an effort to save lives, American law enforcement agencies arrest over 1 million people for driving under the influence every year. The punishments for causing fatal DUI crashes vary in each state, but California law is quite harsh on offenders. For example, drivers who are convicted of misdemeanor DUI vehicular manslaughter can be sentenced to up to a year in jail, fined up to $1,000 and have their driving privileges suspended. Drivers convicted of felony DUI vehicular manslaughter can be sentenced to between 16 months and four years in prison and assessed up to $10,000 in fines. In addition, they can face another three to six years in prison if any other people were seriously hurt in the crash.
Meanwhile, drivers convicted of gross DUI vehicular manslaughter can face between four and 10 years in state prison for a first-time offense. However, a driver who has had a previous vehicle manslaughter conviction or multiple DUI convictions on their record can be sentenced to between 15 years and life in prison and assessed fines of up to $10,000. Finally, drivers who’ve been given a “Watson advisement” after a DUI and later cause a fatal alcohol-related crash can be charged with DUI murder and sentenced to up to life in prison. A “Watson advisement” is a warning that drunk driving is dangerous and can cause the death of others.
California drivers facing DUI charges might need the immediate assistance of a criminal defense attorney. Legal counsel might be able to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and work to get the charges reduced or dismissed.