Fatal DUI Accident, Costa Mesa.
A man from Costa Mesa was convicted in an Orange County Court on Thursday of second-degree murder and felony hit and run. This conviction stemmed from a traffic accident on Valentines Day which resulted in the death of a 20-year-old female passenger in the vehicle that was struck. The defendant, Gustavo Vega, had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times.
The defendant was convicted of murder based on the fact that he had a prior conviction for DUI and was previously admonished about the dangers of drinking and driving and the possibility of causing death if he was to drink and drive again.
Upon conviction for a DUI, the court routinely warns a defendant of the dangers of drinking and driving and the possibility of being charged with murder if the defendant thereafter causes death by drinking and driving. This is known as a "Watson Warning". The idea is that if a person commits another DUI, following such an explicit warning, and as a result of a traffic accident, someone is killed, the defendant is presumed to be aware of the dangers of drinking and driving and therefore to have malice aforethought to form the basis of a murder charge as opposed to vehicular manslaughter.
Felony DUI charges in Orange County routinely lead to State prison sentences as judges are very concerned about media reports such as the one above and the public's perception of how the courts deal with DUI offenders.