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Murder Charge for Driving While High

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Aug 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Many people do not think driving while high is very dangerous. However, driving while impaired by any substance, even a prescription medication, can lead to DUI charges. A California driver has been convicted of second-degree murder for smoking marijuana before getting into a fatal accident. 

Fatal California DUI Accident

In 2018, Davion Murphy was involved in a fatal car accident that killed 3 people. Murphy was driving a silver Lexus when he ran a red light, crashing into a Subaru WRX. Murphy was reportedly driving at least 88 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone. After the accident, blood tests showed Murphy tested positive for marijuana. Later, witnesses said Murphy had been smoking marijuana about half an hour before the accident. 

After a short deliberation, the jury found Murphy guilty of 3 counts of second-degree murder. Facing a maximum of 45 years in prison, the 22-year-old Murphy was sentenced to 15 years. Murphy said before the accident, he did not take marijuana and driving that seriously but has since learned it is as dangerous as drinking and driving.

DUI Murder Charges and Watson Advisement  

Murder charges are rare for fatal car accidents. If the person who caused the accident was grossly negligent, they may face charges for vehicular manslaughter, under California Penal Code 192(c). However, in a DUI accident, the driver can face murder charges based on implied malice. 

Malice can be implied in a DUI accident if the driver was deliberately acting with a conscious disregard for human life. This can be difficult to prove and is a higher burden than showing gross negligence. However, if the driver had a prior DUI, they may have been given a Watson Advisement that the driver acknowledges that impaired driving is extremely dangerous to human life. 

Attending DUI school is also a way to show that the driver has been taught that drinking and driving or drugged driving is dangerous. If the driver is then involved in a fatal accident after the advisement or DUI school, the prosecutor can show the driver:  

  1. Intentionally drove under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  2. The natural and probable consequences of the act were dangerous to human life;
  3. At the time, the driver knew the act was dangerous to human life; and
  4. The driver deliberately acted with conscious disregard for human life.

Marijuana Impaired Driving and Testing Problems

Even before marijuana was legalized in California for recreational use, a lot of pot smokers did not think driving while high is dangerous. Research shows that the effect of cannabis use can vary greatly between individuals, based on tolerance, differences in consumption, and different absorption of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

One of the main problems with drug testing for a suspected marijuana DUI is that the presence of THC in the body does not directly correlate with the level of impairment. A driver may show THC in their blood days after smoking and long after the effects have worn off. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finds a “poor correlation of THC concentrations in the blood with impairment.”

Legal Help After a DUI Arrest

If you were arrested for a marijuana DUI in the East Bay, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney. With over 36 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands the law and science around marijuana DUIs. Contact the local DUI lawyer who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for over 36 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the Immediate Past President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense. Lynn is a Specialist Member of the California DUI Lawyers Association and lectures frequently to other attorneys regarding DUI and DMV issues.


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