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COURT UPHOLDS RECKLESS DRIVER’S MURDER CONVICTION – PENAL CODE 187 AND SECTION 189

On August 23, 2010, the Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s determination that appellant, a driver who collided with another vehicle and killed the other vehicle’s passenger, had the requisite intent to be convicted of murder.

On November 29, 2006, appellant Hal Moore drove north on Hill Avenue in Pasadena at a rate of between 80 to 90 miles per hour, according to officer testimony. The posted speed limit was 35 miles per hour. At trial, evidence indicated that Moore was angry because his apartment was burglarized while he was on vacation and he blamed his fiancée for not being present at the apartment.

Trial evidence established that Moore collided with another vehicle after crossing an intersection on a red light and without trying to stop. A passenger in the other vehicle was killed. Appellant admitted that he did not stop to check the condition of the victims and continued to drive north on Hill Avenue.

A patrol officer noticed Moore’s vehicle, which had sustained significant front-end damage and which had steam or smoke coming from the vehicle’s hood. The officer turned on his patrol vehicle’s lights and siren and attempted to initiate a vehicle stop. Moore continued to drive without yielding to stop signs until he reached his residence.

Moore resisted arrest and it took three officers to subdue him.

After being subdued and after waiving his Miranda rights, Moore told officers that he did not intend to kill anyone, he was just going too fast. Moore admitted that he knew the other driver died, and that he did not think it was a problem to leave the scene of the accident because he knew the other driver was dead.

According to Penal Code section 187(a), “murder is the unlawful killing of another human being. . .with malice aforethought.” Malice can be established when a person acts with profound disregard of the significant probability of death, and the person subjectively knew of the risk of death.

On appeal, Moore claimed that the facts did not establish that he acted with malice because he did not have subjective knowledge that his driving had a high probability of killing someone. He cited cases where, prior to the fatal incident, the defendants were either under the influence or had swerved to avoid a collision. He argued that since he was not intoxicated and did not have a near-collision prior to the fatal incident, he did not have an awareness of the risk of death sufficient to be convicted for murder.

The court of appeal disagreed, stating that while driving while intoxicated or a previous near-collision is relevant to determining malice, neither fact is necessary to prove subjective knowledge of the risk. The jury is entitled to analyze all the circumstances to determine whether Moore had an awareness of the risk of death.

The court of appeal also disagreed with Moore’s contention that his prior conviction for driving under the influence was inadmissible because Moore was not intoxicated during the fatal incident. The court stated that his prior conviction was relevant to determining whether he had subjective knowledge of the consequences of his driving.

If you or someone you know has been convicted of driving under the influence or murder, you will need an experienced Southern California defense attorney to help defend you against these serious charges. At Wallin & Klarich, we have helped people accused of DUI and murder for over 30 years. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (888) 280-6839      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit us at our website at www.wklaw.com. We will be there when you call.

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.