When one person dies as a result of another person’s actions, that is always considered a homicide. However, there are various kinds of homicide, not all of which are illegal (i.e. self-defense), with varying degrees of repercussions.
Criminal homicide cases are divided into two different charges: murder and manslaughter.
To help you understand the difference in Texas, we’ve detailed each below:
Murder charges are further divided based on the severity and other circumstances surrounding the crime. While many states separate murder charges into first and second-degree murder, Texas law makes a distinction between “capital murder” and “murder.”
In order to be charged with murder, the defendant must have knowingly and willingly caused the death of another person. The biggest distinguishing factor between murder and manslaughter involves the intent of the perpetrator. If the defendant intended to cause serious bodily harm or death, or intended to commit a felony other than manslaughter that resulted in death, he or she can be charged with murder.
The distinction between capital murder and murder is made when the killing was committed in a way that can result in capital punishment in Texas. Some of the criteria for capital murder include killing a police officer or firefighter, having been paid to commit murder, murdering someone in prison, or killing more than one person.
With regard to capital murder, obviously, the punishment can result in the execution of the defendant. A defendant who is convicted of capital murder could also be given life in prison without the possibility of parole. A murder charge without capital implications, on the other hand, is a first-degree felony that can result in anywhere from 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000.
Several defenses, such as insanity or a crime of passion defense, can result in lesser charges or penalties in murder cases.
Many states have two different forms of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Texas, however, combines these two charges into one and has enhanced penalties for certain aggravating factors, according to Texas Penal Code § 19.04.
To be convicted of manslaughter, a defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have recklessly caused the death of another person. As opposed to murder, intent does not need to be proven in order to convict someone of manslaughter.
While Texas does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, it is the only state that has a specific crime known as “intoxication manslaughter” which is reserved for when a death is caused by someone who was impaired by drugs or alcohol. This charge most often applies to impaired motorists. All manslaughter charges in Texas are second-degree felonies which carry prison sentences of 2 to 20 years and fines up to $10,000. Intoxication manslaughter may also result in minimum sentencing (meaning you must serve a certain period of time before being eligible for parole) and a mandatory 240-800 community services hours.
Both murder and manslaughter are extremely serious crimes in Texas. If you are convicted of these crimes, you could face major prison time and even death, which is why you need an experienced and committed criminal defense lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the Texas criminal justice system. If you are facing manslaughter, intoxication manslaughter, or murder, please call The Medlin Law Firm to discuss your options and what we can do to protect your rights and freedom.