The Los Angeles DUI Law Blog

Irony: Substance Abuse Counselor Charged With DUI, Murder

The clichéd “you’d think that she would know better” has never been more appropriate, especially in a legal sense.

Sherri Lynn Wilkins, 51, of Torrance, was arrested after striking and killing Phillip Moreno, 31. Moreno was headed home after leaving the Branch Office bar when Wilkins’ Mitsubishi Eclipse struck him in the roadway. She turned right on Crenshaw Boulevard and continued to drive for two miles, with Moreno embedded in her hood and windshield, before her car was stopped by concerned citizens, reports the Daily News.

Though her exact blood-alcohol content was not disclosed, it was at least twice the legal limit. Quite ironically, Wilkins told officers that she was leaving work. She ran a sober living facility and was a substance abuse counselor.

According to the Los Angeles Times, her undated MySpace page stated that she had been sober for 11 years. In 2010, however, she was charged with a DUI after striking a light pole less than two miles from where her car ended up on Saturday night. The charges were later dropped after her BAC test measured zero and drug test results were too low to prosecute.

Her prior experience with the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse, both as a user and as a counselor, likely factored into her case. She has been charged with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing injury, drunken driving while causing injury, and leaving the scene of the accident.

They're also bringing this case as a third strike, just to be sure.

In order to convict someone of DUI "Watson murder," the prosecutor has to show implied malice by demonstrating that the defendant knew the consequences of her actions and disregarded them. For many repeat offenders, they are required after their first offense to sign a "Watson Advisement" that states that they are aware of the consequences of a DUI. Such an advisement probably wouldn't be needed here, as Wilkins obviously is aware of the consequence.

While a Watson murder would carry a lengthy sentence, a third strike offense would carry a life sentence without the possibility of parole. In order to bring this as a third strike, she must be convicted of an underlying serious or violent felony. Murder almost certainly qualifies.

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