Homicide and murder charges in Texas are some of the most serious that you can face and carry some of the most severe consequences. Texas courts prosecute violent crime aggressively, with little room for lenience or subtlety that are often required to accurately assess complex situations.
This is why, if you or a loved one is looking at murder charges in Texas, you need to hire the best criminal defense lawyers that you possibly can to ensure that your rights are upheld and you are given a fair chance in the face of relentless prosecution.
The Fort Worth murder lawyers at Westfall Sellers have spent decades fighting for the rights of their clients accused of crimes ranging from capital murder to material support of terrorism. If you want to give yourself a chance at freedom, you need to hire a trial attorney with experience beating murder charges, like those at Westfall Sellers.
What are the different degrees of murder in Texas?
Before we get into the types of murder charges in Texas, we should explain that, unlike many other states, there are no degrees of murder in Texas. Degrees of murder that would be used in other states have the following equivalencies in Texas:
- First-degree murder is referred to as capital murder in Texas.
- Second-degree murder is simply referred to as murder in Texas.
- Third-degree murder doesn’t exist in Texas and actually only exists in Florida, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.
In Texas, because there are no degrees of murder, there are only four types of homicide.
What are the different types of murder in Texas?
Correctly speaking, what are the 4 types of homicide in Texas? The four types of homicide in Texas are laid out in Texas Penal Code § 19, contained within Title 5: Offenses Against the Person. A breakdown of each type of homicide charge in Texas follows.
Criminally negligent homicide
Let’s first define homicide. Texas Penal Code § 19 states that a person commits criminal homicide if “they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence cause the death of an individual.”
Texas Penal Code § 19.05 defines criminally negligent homicide as “causing the death of another individual by criminal negligence.” This essentially means that criminally negligent homicide occurs when a person commits homicide by acting dangerously but without intentionality.
In order to commit criminally negligent homicide, it must be provided that although a person was unaware of the immediate consequences of their actions, they should have been aware. Some examples of criminally negligent homicide include firing a gun into the air, reckless driving, or leaving a child in a hot car.
Manslaughter cases in Texas can look very similar to criminally negligent homicide cases. There are two main types of manslaughter cases in Texas.
- Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone accidentally kills another person without malice or intent to cause them serious harm.
- Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone accidentally kills another person by way of intentional non-premeditated harm. Sufficient provocation and “heat of passion” can lead to charges of murder being reduced to charges of voluntary manslaughter.
The main distinction between murder vs. manslaughter is that murder is an intentional and premeditated offense. Murder is committed when a person:
- (1) intentionally or knowingly cause the death of an individual;
- (2) intend to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
- (3) commit or attempt 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, commit or attempt to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
In order to be charged with murder, it must be provided that an individual fully understood that their actions would cause the death of another individual, and the actions were carried out anyway, unless under the circumstances described above.
Capital murder, also known as first-degree murder in many other states, occurs when a person commits murder under the following circumstances:
- They know that the victim is a police officer or fireman, or was a police officer or fireman in the line of duty.
- The murder is committed during the course of the commission of a kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction, or terroristic threat.
- The murder is committed for payment or the promise of payment.
- The murder is committed while escaping from a prison.
- The murder is committed against a prison employee by an inmate.
- More than one person is murdered during a single criminal episode.
- The victim is someone under 10 years old.
- The victim is murdered because they are a judge.
What does a murder charge in Texas sentence look like?
While all of these charges have in common that they are homicide charges, the minimum sentence for manslaughter in Texas will be a lot different than facing life in prison for capital murder.
A breakdown of homicide penalties in Texas is as follows:
|Criminally Negligent Homicide||State jail felony||$10,000||180 days – 2 years|
|Manslaughter||Second-degree felony||$10,000||2 – 20 years|
|Murder||First-degree felony||$10,000||5 – 99 years|
|Capital Murder||Capital felony||N/A||Life in prison or the death penalty|
Many people assume that the Texas self-defense laws will allow them to avoid doing time in prison because they believed their life to be in danger and they will be absolved in the eyes of the law. This could be true! But you will still likely need a very good lawyer to make sure of it.
Facing murder charges in Texas? Call the Fort Worth murder lawyers at Westfall Sellers before it’s too late.
Whether you’re looking at a criminally negligent homicide charge or a charge for capital murder, if you or a loved one is facing homicide or murder charges in Texas, you need to start building your defense before it’s too late.
Whether you need aggravated assault attorneys or lawyers who successfully defend murder charges, the criminal defense lawyers at Westfall Sellers are not afraid to go in front of a judge or jury and fight for their clients’ rights under any circumstance.
Don’t give up hope. Call the murder defense lawyers at Westfall Sellers today at (817) 928-4222 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.
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