Prior to 1981, people who caused fatal accidents because they were driving
while intoxicated faced charges of vehicular manslaughter. On Nov. 30,
1981, the Supreme Court of California handed down its ruling in People
v. Watson, a case that changed the law regarding people who cause fatalities
when they are driving while impaired.
The People v. Watson case
In People v. Watson, the defendant was charged with two counts of second-degree
murder and vehicular manslaughter. He reportedly left a bar after drinking
and collided with a car in an intersection, killing the driver and a six-year-old
girl. His blood alcohol content measured .23 percent when he was tested
30 minutes after the accident happened. He filed a pretrial appeal concerning
the second-degree murder counts based on the argument that his actions
didn't constitute implied malice as is required under the second-degree
murder statute. The court disagreed, saying there were sufficient facts
for the prosecution to use in order to try to establish he acted with
implied malice. Since that decision, people in California who kill others
while driving intoxicated have been allowed to be charged with second-degree
murder. If a person is convicted as charged, he or she will face a sentence
of 15 years to life in prison.
The Neil Stephany case
On Oct. 19, 2014, a man by the name of Neil Stephany was driving on East
Coast Highway after reportedly using heroin. In Newport Beach, he swerved
into a bicycle lane, fatally striking Shaun Eagleson, a 30-year-old bicyclist.
The Orange County District Attorney's Office said that Mr. Stephany
left the scene of the accident and didn't provide any help to Mr.
Eagleson. Law enforcement officers caught Mr. Stephany a little after
the accident. He tested positive for heroin after submitting to a blood
test and was charged with second-degree murder. Mr. Stephany was convicted
of the offense on Oct. 26, 2015, following a jury trial. On Jan. 18, 2016,
he was sentenced to serve 15 years to life in a California state prison.
Although he will be eligible to apply for parole at a later time, there
is no guarantee it will be granted to him.
Why getting an attorney is important when you are charged with a felony DUI
When you are facing a felony DUI charge, it is very important that you
seek representation from a criminal defense lawyer who has significant
experience defending against such charges. If you choose a criminal defense
lawyer who has only dabbled in defending against such cases, he or she
may not be able to handle all of the different issues a felony driving
under the influence charge can bring. If you are convicted as charged
for second-degree murder, you will face 15 years to life in prison. The
obvious importance of retaining a lawyer who has the skill and experience
with investigating cases, analyzing scientific evidence and vigorously
challenging the state's case cannot be emphasized enough.
Scott D. Henry is the leading DUI defense attorney in Riverside, San Bernardino
and Orange County, California. He has the level of experience and skill
you need when you are facing such serious felony charges for driving under
the influence. He is also able to help people with misdemeanor drunk driving
charges as well. No matter the level of the charges you are facing, our
law firm is well-equipped to help. Give us a call today to schedule your
consultation and to learn more about your rights and how we might be able to help.