People v. Watson
In People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290, the defendant drove his vehicle to a bar and consumed enough alcohol to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.23 percent.
In concluding there was sufficient evidence to warrant a charge of second degree murder, the Supreme Court presumed the defendant was aware of the hazards of driving while intoxicated and reasoned, "'One who willfully consumes alcoholic beverages to the point of intoxication, knowing that he thereafter must operate a motor vehicle, thereby combining sharply impaired physical and mental faculties with a vehicle capable of great force and speed, reasonably may be held to exhibit a conscious disregard of the safety of others.'" (People v. Watson, supra, 30 Cal.3d at pp. 300-301.)
The court went on to reference the facts that the defendant drove through city streets at excessive speeds, nearly hit another vehicle after running a red light, and unsuccessfully attempted to brake before causing the fatal collision as "suggesting an actual awareness of the great risk of harm which he had created." (Id. at p. 301.)
The court held that these facts supported a conclusion that the defendant had acted wantonly and in conscious disregard for human life. (Ibid.)
In sum, the defendant had consumed enough alcohol to become legally intoxicated. "He had driven his car to the establishment where he had been drinking, and he must have known that he would have to drive it later." (Watson, at p. 300.)
The court presumed the defendant "was aware of the hazards of driving while intoxicated." (Ibid.)
The Watson court went on to cite the defendant's conduct in driving through city streets at excessive speeds, his near collision with another vehicle after running a red light, and his belated attempt to brake before the fatal crash as "suggesting an actual awareness of the great risk of harm which he had created." (Id. at p. 301.)