A Nevada Supreme Court order delivered Monday is expected to have a sweeping effect on how prosecutors file charges in DUI cases involving fatal crashes.
The decision, which prohibits prosecutors from charging defendants with second-degree murder in DUI crashes, stemmed from a case in which authorities said a man caused a crash after driving with marijuana in his system and speeding, traveling between 70 and 142 mph through a residential neighborhood in Las Vegas.
“Although malice may be inferred from the facts of this case, which would support a charge of second-degree murder, the Legislature has pre-empted such a charge for cases of non-intentional vehicular homicide,” Chief Justice Kristina Pickering wrote in an order signed by all six other justices. “The state may not charge a defendant with second-degree murder for a death resulting from driving under the influence.”
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the decision would result in prosecutors dismissing second-degree murder charges in at least five cases.
“I respect the court’s decision, and at the same time I’m disappointed,” Wolfson said. “I believe that in the most serious DUI death cases, where defendants exhibit extraordinary behavior, which would equal an abandoned and malignant heart, which is considered malice under the law, that those folks should be treated in the most harsh manner. Our next step is to present our position to the Legislature, and see if we can convince the Legislature that in these most serious felony DUI death cases, where people travel at excessive rates of speed and otherwise exhibit an extraordinarily reckless behavior, that they should be sentenced and punished more harshly.”
Monday’s order essentially reversed a previous decision in the case, issued by District Judge Douglas Herndon, who the high court said “erred in interpreting and applying those holdings, which was a manifest