Rickey Lartigue, 55, had six prior DUI convictions and had been ordered to take classes on the safety risks of impaired driving, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Brian Welch said.
Lartigue was aware of the dangers and drove drunk anyway and so can be charged with murder for having a "conscious disregard for human life" and prosecutors do not have to show he had the intent to kill, Welsh said.
In addition to the murder charge, which carries a sentence of 15 years to life, prosecutors filed two child endangerment charges against Lartigue for driving in his condition with his grandchildren with him in the vehicle, Welch said.
According to a statement of facts from San Jose police and filed by the district attorney's office, Lartigue was convicted of DUI in 1983, 1991, twice in 1994 and two more times in 1995.
At about 5:48 p.m. Saturday in East San Jose, police said Lartigue drove his green 2003 Kia van in reverse on Leeward Drive and struck a pedestrian, Willy Umali, 43, a San Jose resident.
Umali was walking across Leeward north of Barlow Avenue when the van hit him, knocking his body 15 feet before it came to rest in the northbound lane of Leeward, police said.
The victim was transported with multiple traumatic injuries to Regional Medical Center of San Jose where he was pronounced dead at 11:58 a.m. Sunday, police said.
Lartigue was driving the van with his two grandchildren, aged 1 and 3, inside with him, police said.
He told police that he was looking for his daughter's son whom he thought lived in an apartment complex at 1395 Leeward when he realized that he drove past the complex, police said.
The suspect then stopped, put the van in reverse and drove backwards when he crashed into Umali, who police said was crossing Leeward from the east to the west side of the street.
After officers arrived, Lartigue "displayed objective symptoms of alcohol intoxication," and refused to take field sobriety tests, police said.
A preliminary alcohol-screening test taken at 6:15 p.m. showed his blood-alcohol level at .125 and the level rose to .134 in a test done three minutes later, police said.
The children in the van were not injured in the collision, Welch said.
The homicide was the 32nd of the year in San Jose, police Sgt. Heather Randol said.