A 27 year old Santa Ana man was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, felony hit and run and driving on a suspended license, in connection with the hit and run death of a 75 year old man last week. The charges have yet to be filed but due to the fact that the suspect was on probation for a 2011 dui conviction, if it is determined that he was in fact the driver and was intoxicated at the time of the accident, he could be facing murder charges.
According to authorities, the 75-year-old man was out for a walk on Thursday morning when he was struck and killed by a vehicle described as a dark blue BMW. Another driver who followed the vehicle until police arrived spotted a damaged vehicle matching the description Saturday. The suspect was arrested and reportedly, the damage to the car was consistent with evidence from the crime scene.
At this point, the evidence seems to be pointing to the fact that the car was involved in a hit and run which doesn’t necessarily mean that the suspect was the one driving the car. Further, if the suspect were driving the car, absent any positive blood or breath test for alcohol, there would be no physical evidence of intoxication. This is a very important detail in this case because, as mentioned above, the defendant has a prior conviction for dui, which puts him in danger of being charged with dui 2nd degree murder. This is known as a “Watson Murder”, which is explained in more detail below.
In California, when someone pleads guilty to DUI, they either sign a “Watson Advisement” or the Judge advises in Court of the “Watson Advisement”. This basically requires that the defendant acknowledge that he/she understands that driving under the influence is dangerous to human life and that in the future; any dui’s, which result in the death of another, can be prosecuted as a murder. For this reason, the hit and run charge in this case, absent any evidence of alcohol involvement, will definitely be the lesser of two evils as far as charges go.
However, these are very serious charges and require the advice and assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with these types of cases and the defenses thereto.
There are defenses to a hit and run which an aggressive defense attorney should pursue. A couple of the more common defenses are: 1) The suspect was unaware that there was an accident and, 2) The suspect wasn’t driving the vehicle. As in all cases, a defense attorney should pay close attention to the conduct of the police officers and investigation reports, as well as the conduct at the scene. Errors and holes in the reports can often assist in the defense of this type of case. Something else to explore is the possible need for an accident reconstruction expert. Finding out how the accident occurred could be helpful to the defendant’s case. An expert would look at the road conditions, lighting, and anything that may have contributed to the accident.
If you or someone you know is facing charges of this serious nature, consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in the County in which the case is pending, may be the most important thing you ever do.