Articles Tagged with watson murder

Los-Angeles-DUI-attorney-21-300x200It’s the scenario we all hope never happens—and one that in truth should never happen. Someone has a lapse in judgment, gets behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or another substance, gets into an accident—and another person dies as a result. Aside from the overwhelming sense of loss and guilt of knowing his actions have caused this death, now that person may be facing more serious criminal charges on top of the DUI.

In a perfect world, you should never find yourself in this situation, but if you are charged in California with a DUI incident involving a fatality, what can you expect? What, exactly, are you facing?

Three Possible Charges

adam-hill-dui-murderDriving under the influence of drugs in Los Angeles is a dangerous crime, as even a child could tell you. But what distinguishes a “run of the mill” drug DUI from an arrest that leads to a second degree murder conviction and a 17 year-to-life jail sentence?

The answer is: the circumstances.

Consider, for instance, the nightmarish series of events that unfolded on the morning of February 13, 2011. Adam Harrison Hall spun out of control in his Ford SUV, smashed into a Toyota SUV at a red light, injuring the occupants, then veered onto the sidewalk and hit and killed 40-year-old Mara Steves, who had been walking a lost labrador retriever.

Hall allegedly killed a pedestrian and caused a massive wreck that led to other injuries… AND he had two prior DUI convictions.

In Southern California, after you get convicted of a DUI, you receive what’s known as a Watson Advisement. This is basically a “last warning” that affirms that you understand that driving DUI can lead to severe injury and death. People who receive the Watson Advisement and then later go on to commit another DUI crime and kill someone can be charged with DUI murder, also known as a “Watson Murder” because of the eponymous advisement.

In any event, Hall apparently had nearly a pharmacy’s worth of drugs in his system, including morphine, amphetamine, temazepam, oxazepam, hydroxyalprazolam, alprazolam, nordiazepam, diazepam, and methamphetamine as well as THCA. In February this year, a jury found Hall guilty of a smorgasbord of charges, including misdemeanor drug DUI, two felony counts of obtaining drugs via a forged prescription, one felony prescription forgery charge, and of course one felony murder count. Hall had appealed the verdict, because he argued his trial attorney had been inadequate and that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove that he had been the driver burning through the red light. But the three justices disagreed and upheld the murder conviction.

If you or some you love faces a severe charge, like DUI manslaughter or murder, call a qualified, compassionate Los Angeles DUI defense lawyer with the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers to get effective insight into your possible options.

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Our Los Angeles DUI blog reported several weeks ago on a very sad case out of Diamond Bar: 21-year-old Olivia Carolee Culbreath caused a crash on the 60 Freeway early February that killed six people.Culbreath-dui-los-angeles-deaths

Last week, the young woman went to court to answer the judge’s questions – she will be arraigned on May 21. Before causing the awful wreck, Culbreath had been convicted of a DUI in San Bernardino County and cited for traffic violations on two other occasions.

17 separate witnesses said they had seen a driver barreling down the 57 and 60 Freeways going the wrong way, just before the collision. Witnesses said that Culbreath was traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour.

The crash involved Culbreath’s vehicle and two other vehicles. All told, there were only two survivors from the awful wreck – Culbreath herself and Joel Cortez, the driver of one of the other vehicles. Two of Culbreath’s passengers — 21-year-old Kristin Melissa Young, and Culbreath’s sister, 24-year-old Maya — died in the crash. Four people driving a Ford Explorer involved in the crash — Gregorio Megia-Martinez, Leticia Ibarra, Jessica Jasmine Mejia, and Ester Delgado — all died.

Culbreath herself suffered serious injuries, including a ruptured bladder and a broken femur. She is being held on a $6 million bail, and she faces life behind bars. As the judge asked her questions, she allegedly “softly answered” and “did not look towards her family.” Her family members were said to be “disheartened – an obvious reaction, given that one sister had been killed and the other faces a life prison sentence.

Culbreath had to be wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, because she still cannot walk due to her injuries.

Obviously, Culbreath’s case is extreme – fortunately, most DUI incidents do not lead to such horrific results. However, if you or a loved one did get into an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could face vehicular manslaughter or murder charges, depending on your past and what happened during the event.

One of the more serious types of vehicular manslaughter charges is called “gross vehicular manslaughter while DUI” — it is punished per Penal Code Section 191.5(a). Prosecutors have a high burden of proof in such a case. To prove gross negligence, you need to show that what happened was beyond the realm of normal negligence – for instance, you acted in a way that a reasonable person would conclude could cause serious harm or death. (Driving 100 miles per hour the wrong way on a freeway would certainly qualify, per this definition.)

For help defending against your Los Angeles DUI charges — whether you face vehicular manslaughter or much less serious charges — please turn to attorney Michael Kraut of the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers for a free, confidential consultation.

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If you’ve been arrested on a Los Angeles DUI charge, odds are that you’re probably facing a relatively minor (but still serious) charge, such as misdemeanor DUI. If your case is extreme – for instance if you hurt someone – you might face a felony. This is a very serious charge that can lead to over a year behind bars.Ever-Olivos-Gutierrez-dui

However, unless your situation is very intense, you probably won’t face a first degree murder charge.

Not so for Ever Olivos-Gutierrez, a native Mexico living in Colorado, who hit and killed a man last Monday morning. Authorities say Olivos-Gutierrez ran a stop light and smashed his Ford Expedition into a Chevy Camaro driven by Juan Carlos Dominguez-Palomino, killing the 17-year-old on the scene. Olivos-Gutierrez then fled the crash, but police tracked him down. Per the arrest affidavit, he tested over four times the legal limit for DUI.

Prior to the fatal crash, Olivos-Gutierrez had been arrested multiple times on DUI-related charges and other traffic incidents. Approximately half of his arrests and offenses happened when he was living in the United States illegally – he never had a Colorado driver’s license.

Authorities say that his fatal wreck last week mirrored a similar crash in September 2008, when an illegal immigrant named Francis Hernandez hit a pickup truck while DUI — driving 80 miles per hour — on a street in Aurora. The force of the accident thrust the truck into a nearby ice-cream shop, where it killed a 3-year-old boy and two women who had been eating inside.

Despite the fact that Olivos-Gutierrez had been arrested twice for DUI – once in 2000 and once in 2007 — and that he committed multiple driving offenses and infractions, while driving without a license and living in the country illegally — he served less than a year of jail time. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only had documentation of one of his arrests. (When the Denver Post reported on this story, officials from ICE did not comment.)

Recently, in California, our Supreme Court decided to give the green light to prosecutors to pursue DUI murder charges – also known as Watson Murders. This charge is a second degree murder charge, and it can be punished by up to life in prison. Part of what makes this charge particularly strong is that it contains an element of what’s known as “implied malice” – i.e., the driver clearly understood the dangerous risks of his actions but engaged in bad behavior anyway and then killed somebody. After you have been convicted of a DUI, you need to sign a statement known as a Watson Advisement that acknowledges that you understand how dangerous DUI driving can be.

For help unpacking your Los Angeles DUI defense, connect with attorney Michael Kraut. Mr. Kraut is a former prosecutor (Deputy District Attorney). He has appeared on Good Morning America and written in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times about DUI cases in the news.
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We recently reported on a horrifying Los Angeles DUI story: 21-year-old Olivia Carolee Culbreathlos-angeles-DUI-murder allegedly caused a three car accident in Diamond Bar, which killed six people.

California Highway Patrol authorities say Culbreath had been driving in excess of 100 miles per hour, when she crashed her 2013 Camaro on the 60 Freeway while driving the wrong way. It turns out that Culbreath has a checkered driving history. In April 2010, a San Bernardino juvenile court convicted her of DUI in a previous incident. Before she got her license reinstated in December 2011, officers hit her with two other traffic violations. The California Department of Motor Vehicles says the DMV had lifted Culbreath’s license restrictions just a week before the awful, fatal wreck.

Four people in the Ford Explorer she hit — Gregorio Megia Martinez (47), Laticia Ibarra (42), Ester Delgado, and Jessica Jasmine Megia (20) — died. Joel Cortez (57), the driver of the third car involved in the wreck, escaped with just minor injuries. His daughter, Emma Cortez, later told reporters: “he remembers seeing part of an engine that hit him, pushed him against the wall, completely crushing both sides of the car … in shock, the first thing he does is look around. There’s a freeway, two cars completely destroyed. And there are bodies on the floor without heads … this is something you’d see out of a movie.”

In California, certain DUI cases that lead to death can be prosecuted as “Watson Murders.” This charge is the equivalent of second degree murder. If convicted, you face a severe sentence – up to life behind bars. The prosecution must hit a high bar to achieve a conviction.

It’s rare for prosecutors to charge someone with a Watson Murder. The majority of these cases involve people who have been convicted of DUI previously. After you are convicted of a DUI, you must sign a statement — known as a Watson Advisement — in which you acknowledge that you understand that driving DUI can cause people to die.

Prosecutors must also prove that you had “implied malice.” This basically means that you knew the harms of DUI driving, yet you decided to drive DUI anyway; and then you killed someone while behind the wheel.

Whether you face an egregious charge, like Los Angeles DUI manslaughter or murder; or you face a more minor (but still anxiety producing) charge, like misdemeanor DUI, the team here at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers can provide thorough, sensitive assistance.
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