Fatal DUI Crash Leads to Aggressive Charges Against California EMT

The prosecutor in the case of an emergency medical technician, who was allegedly drunk when he blacked out and crashed his vehicle into a tow-truck driver, is charging the defendant with second-degree murder—despite a clean record prior to the accident.

According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, 26-year-old Raymond Burley was driving a 2005 Toyota southbound on the 405 Freeway when he swerved onto the right shoulder and fatally struck Faapuna Manu, 27, of Long Beach. Manu had been standing at his tow truck, inflating a spare tire for a disabled Mercedes-Benz, which was also sideswiped by Burley’s vehicle. The accident occurred on December 9, 2012, at around 2 a.m.

Burley appeared at the Long Beach Superior Courthouse in July, where the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged him with one count of what is referred to as a “Watson murder”—a charge that, according to several legal experts, is unusual at best and may be considered too aggressive.

The charge refers to a precedent-setting case, The People v. Watson, in which a second-time DUI offender committed vehicular manslaughter. In 1981, the California Supreme Court ruled that a DUI conviction equates to an acknowledgement of the dangers of drunk driving, and that killing someone in a second offense allows a conviction of second-degree murder—a much steeper sentence than manslaughter.

The Press-Telegram reports that the prosecution is charging Burley under the Watson precedent, because the signed application for his noncommercial driver’s license, required to drive an ambulance, contains an advisement about the dangers of DUI and states that he could be charged with murder if someone were killed.

Burley’s attorney, speaking to the Press-Telegram, said that his client doesn’t meet the Watson standard, as this is Burley’s first offense and he was not speeding or driving recklessly.

Criminal defense attorney Stephen A. Varga is experienced in representing individuals who have been charged with crimes, including DUI. If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, contact our law office today to discuss your case.

Please Note: Stephen A. Varga is not representing any party involved in this case