New California law toughens sentencing for deaths related to DUI

| 10/24/2007

A new law in California allows people to be charged with murder if they kill someone while driving drunk. It gives no break to first-time offenders.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law earlier this month. He said the matter warranted attention because nearly 1,000 people died in DUI-related wrecks in California last year. More than 22,000 people were injured.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, the bill – AB808 – requires drivers who are applying for new licenses or renewing their existing licenses to sign a statement indicating that they know driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous and could result in death. If a driver subsequently kills someone while driving intoxicated, prosecutors will be allowed to admit into evidence the DUI statement signed by the driver.

Anyone who is convicted of killing someone while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will face a possible sentence range of 15 years to life.

California law previously limited prosecutors to charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence charges. Maximum penalties were 10 years in prison.

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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor