Know Your Rights: What to Do When Pulled Over in Texas

Murder Vs. Manslaughter: The Differences To Be Aware Of

Homicide occurs when a person dies as a result of another person’s actions. There are various kinds of homicide with varying degrees of repercussions. In the state of Texas, homicide cases can be very complicated and charges stemming from these cases carry the heaviest penalty range in the entire criminal justice system.

Under Texas law, a person can be charged in a criminal court for causing another person’s death, even if the death is the result from an accident. Depending on the particular circumstances of the homicide, the punishment range can be vastly different.

Criminal homicide cases are divided into two different charge categories: murder and manslaughter. This article will review the differences between murder and manslaughter charges in accordance with Texas law.

Murder In Texas

Based on the severity and circumstances surrounding the crime, murder charges are divided into two different types. While many states separate murder charges into first- and second-degree murder cases, Texas law makes a distinction between capital murder and murder.

Capital murder differs from murder when the killing was committed in a way that can result in capital punishment in Texas. More specifically, capital murder charges can include cases that involve:

• Killing a police officer or firefighter

• Being paid to commit murder (such as a hitman)

• Murdering someone in prison

• Killing more than one person


The punishment for capital murder can result in the execution of the defendant. Another punishment for a defendant convicted of capital murder could include a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

A murder charge is a first-degree felony and comes without capital punishments. The punishments for someone charged with murder in Texas can involve the individual facing from 5 to 99 years in prison and paying a fine of no more than $10,000.

In murder cases, several defenses can be employed to garner a reduced charge or penalty. For instance, a defendant can claim insanity or a crime of passion defense to reduce his or her punishment.

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.

A defendant can be charged with murder if he or she intended to cause serious bodily harm or death or intended to commit a felony other than manslaughter that resulted in death.

Summary: In Texas, someone who knowingly or willingly caused the death of another person can be charged with capital murder or murder. The distinction between these two charges is based on whether the killing was committed in a way that can result in capital punishment in Texas. Murder charges carry prison sentences of 5 to 99 years and fines up to $10,000. Capital murder charges carry the heaviest penalty, resulting in either the execution of the defendant or a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.


Manslaughter In Texas

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.

Unlike other states that have two different classifications for manslaughter – voluntary and involuntary – Texas combines these two charges into one. The state issues enhanced penalties for certain aggravating factors.

For instance, while Texas does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, it is the only state that has a crime known as intoxication manslaughter. This specific crime is reserved for when a death is caused by someone who did bodily harm to another while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

According to Texas Penal Code Chapter 49, intoxicated means: “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”

Most often, this charge is applied to impaired motorists who drive while intoxicated and end up causing an accident that kills another motorist on the scene.

Unlike murder, which is a first-degree felony, all manslaughter charges in Texas are second-degree felonies. Because they are second-degree felonies, manslaughter charges carry prison sentences of 2 to 20 years and fines up to $10,000 whereas murder or capital murder charges 5 to life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole or execution.


In the case of an intoxication manslaughter charge, a defendant may face minimum sentencing such that they serve a certain period of time before they can be eligible for parole along with a mandatory assignment to fulfill 240-800 community service hours.

Summary: When someone recklessly causes the death of another person, they can face manslaughter charges. Intent does not need to be proven to be convicted. In Texas, intoxication manslaughter is a crime reserved for when a death occurs while the defendant was impaired by drugs or alcohol. All manslaughter charges carry prison sentences of 2 to 20 years and fines up to $10,000.

Contact An Experienced Attorney To Help You When Charged With Murder Or Manslaughter

Murder and manslaughter are extremely serious crimes in Texas and result in maximum penalty charges. If you are convicted of these crimes, you could face varying sentences ranging from 2 years in jail

If you are in the position in which you are being charged with murder or manslaughter in Texas, you need an experienced and committed criminal defense lawyer who knows the Texas criminal justice system. Your attorney can help you understand your rights for your particular situation whether you are facing manslaughter, intoxication manslaughter, or murder.

Reach out by phone at (713) 229-9992 or schedule your free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney today to discuss your options and protect your rights.

1210 West Clay

Suite #12

Houston, TX 77019

Phone: (713) 229-9992

Houston Criminal Law Firm