Murder charges have traditionally been reserved for violent crimes. However, this is slowly changing in North Carolina. When individuals driving under the influence cause a fatal crash, prosecutors are beginning to charge DWI suspects with second-degree murder.
According to Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden, drunk drivers who choose to get behind the wheel and put others' lives at risk will be prosecuted for murder if they cause another individual's death.
A recent example is that of a 34-year-old Louisburg man who hit and killed a 28-year-old man while driving intoxicated. The man's murder trial began this week. He has been convicted of driving while impaired on two previous occasions.
Cruden is the prosecutor in another second-degree murder case involving driving while intoxicated. According to Cruden, he must prove malice in order to secure a second-degree murder conviction. Cruden said malice can include having prior drunk driving convictions or even merely speeding.
Cruden admits that individuals who caused the death of another person while driving drunk never used to be charged for murder. However, he said that murder charges in drunk driving cases are becoming increasingly common. While he said that he will always seek a charge of felony death by motor vehicle in drunk driving cases, he warned that prosecutors will be charging drivers with second-degree murder if they can prove malice.
Last year, 394 people died in crashes involving alcohol in North Carolina, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts. However, it is unknown how many of those crashes resulted in second-degree murder charges.
Many DUI/DWI defense attorneys argue that many drunk driving cases do not meet the standard for murder. These attorneys are fighting for their clients to be acquitted on those charges and avoid lengthy prison sentences.
Source: WRAL.com "More DWI suspects face murder charges in N.C.," 15 November 2010