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When DUI Becomes Murder

Posted by Dan Kann | Apr 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

The trial of a Southern California man charged with killing two people while driving drunk is expected to begin next month.

Bradford Pate of Burbank was arrested in July 2013 after he allegedly crashed head-on into another vehicle.

Prosecutors allege that the accident occurred when Pate drove south on a northbound lane of the Antelope Valley Freeway in Acton, California. The driver of the other vehicle was killed, and two passengers were seriously wounded -- one fatally.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's office has charged Pate with five counts of felony DUI:

Pate has also been charged with driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher under California Vehicle Code §23152(b).

If convicted of murder, Pate faces a California state prison sentence of 15 years to life for each count.

While murder charges in DUI cases are rare, they are not unheard of. DUI murder is known as “Watson murder” after the 1981 California Supreme Court case, People v. Watson.[i]

To prove Watson murder, the DA must show not only that a defendant drove drunk, but that he did so with malice – meaning a conscious disregard for human life.

Gross vehicular manslaughter, on the other hand, does not require malice. California Penal Code §191.5 requires a showing that a defendant acted in a reckless way that created a high risk of death or great bodily injury, and that a reasonable person would have known it created such a risk.

If convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter, Pate faces up to 10 years in prison on each count.

Even if the prosecutor can't prove malice or gross negligence, Pate could still be looking at significant prison time.

DUI causing injury can normally be punished by as little as 90 days in county jail. However, several factors will subject Pate to a lengthy state prison term if he is convicted on this count. These include the severity of the passenger's injuries, and Pate's prior conviction.

The complexity of Pate's case illustrates why the help of a strong and experienced DUI defense attorney is so critical. Even when there are no felony charges, a DUI conviction can have serious and lasting consequences.

If you or someone close to you has been charged with DUI in Southern California, the Kann California Defense Group can help. We are experienced in protecting the rights of drivers and we are ready to fight for yours. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation to learn how we can help you.

1 30 Cal. 3d 290.

About the Author

Dan Kann

Daniel E. Kann has devoted his entire legal career exclusively to defending individuals facing criminal prosecution in Southern California. Dan fights criminal cases throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

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Kann California Defense Group

Daniel E. Kann has devoted his entire legal career exclusively to defending individuals facing criminal prosecution in Southern California. Dan fights criminal cases throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

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