What Constitutes Murder Or Manslaughter In Houston, Texas?
Murder and manslaughter are types of homicide crimes under Texas law. The crime of homicide is committed when a person “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.” Included as homicide crimes are murder, capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide.
A murder occurs when someone:
- intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual; or
- intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
- commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
Capital murder includes all of the requirements of murder but includes other elements.
For example, capital murder is committed when a murder victim is a law enforcement officer, the murder was committed for a monetary payment, more than one person was murdered, the victim was under the age of 10, or other aggravating conditions exist.
Manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide are committed when a person recklessly or criminally negligently causes the death of an individual.
The penalties for homicide crimes range from 180 days in state jail to the death penalty. Fines up to $10,000 also apply.
What Is The Difference Between Murder And Manslaughter?
Murder and manslaughter are divided into different types of homicide crimes based upon the mental intent of the defendant when the crime was committed. Under Texas law, “intent” refers to the conscious decisions a defendant makes toward the desired result.
When a defendant’s intention is to directly cause another person’s death, the type of intent required for murder or capital murder is present. When a person intends to kill, to cause serious bodily harm, or to commit a separate felony that results in death, they can be charged with murder.
If a person makes conscious decisions to undertake acts that result in death but did not directly intend to cause the resulting death, manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide can be charged. Reckless behavior can result in a manslaughter charge. For example, if a person voluntarily drives a vehicle while intoxicated and causes death, that act of reckless behavior can support a manslaughter charge.
Dangerous activities carried out recklessly, such as shooting a gun or setting off explosives without due concern for harm to others can also support manslaughter charges when death occurs as a result.
Are There Defenses To Murder Or Manslaughter Charges?
There are certain defenses recognized under Texas law to murder and manslaughter cases. A defense might defeat all homicide charges, or may only work to reduce a conviction from a more serious murder or manslaughter violation to a lesser crime.
A defendant may prove that he lacked the intent to cause death required for a murder conviction. This would require showing that any intentional act was not directed at causing death.
A defendant may also attack the requirement that death was caused with intent by showing a state of insanity or intoxication at the time of the crime under some limited circumstances.
Self-defense can be a defense to homicide charges when a defendant can show that they were acting to defend themselves in a reasonable manner from immediate harm, or was defending other persons.
The claim of willful intent can also be challenged by a defense that actions resulting in death were provoked in a heat of passion resulting from terror, fear, or justifiable rage.
What Type Of Penalties Do I Face If Convicted?
These are the ranges of applicable penalties for homicide crimes:
- Criminally negligent homicide carries incarceration from 180 days to 2 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Manslaughter carries incarceration from 2 to 20 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Murder carries incarceration from 5 to 99 years or life in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Capital murder includes all of the penalties possible for murder and also can carry the death penalty.
Contact An Experienced Houston Trial Attorney If You Are Facing A Murder Or Manslaughter Case
Texas is the most aggressive state in the United States in prosecuting murder and manslaughter cases. If you’ve been accused or arrested on a murder or manslaughter charge in Texas, your life is at stake. Contact the Law Firm of Aaron W. Perry, PLLC.
We can defend you in the case and help you obtain the best possible outcome. You can reach us by phone at (713) 393-7788 or via our online contact form.