Murder & Manslaughter Charges

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Murder & Manslaughter Charges

Manslaughter & Murder Charges in Houston

What Constitutes Murder Or Manslaughter In Texas?

In the State of Texas, if you are responsible for the death of another individual, you can be charged with either manslaughter or murder through the criminal homicide statute. Many factors are taken into consideration by the prosecutors and the grand jury when deciding what offense to try a person suspected of killing another individual.

Some factors include intent and severity. If you are convicted of manslaughter or murder, you can face steep fines. These fines can be up to $10,000 and a prison sentence can be set between two years and the possibility of the death penalty.

What is important to know is that while homicide is defined as the killing of one individual by another, not every homicide is necessarily a criminal homicide. According to Texas State law, there are four categories of criminal homicide, criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter, murder, and capital murder. Each one of these four charges carries specific criteria and their own set of punishments.

Manslaughter in Texas

Manslaughter is defined as recklessly causing the death of another individual. This charge carries a lesser sentence as there are not as many elements to prove during court. To convict on a manslaughter charge, it is only necessary to prove beyond reasonable doubt, a defendant’s actions were reckless and those actions led to the death of an individual.

It is important to understand that this definition means there is no premeditation requirement and the defendant does not even need to be aware they caused the death. The charge of manslaughter carries the penalties of a second degree felony.

While this definition covers the general charge of manslaughter, there are two specific manslaughter charges which can be applied in specific circumstances:

  • First, there is vehicular manslaughter which entails the reckless use of a vehicle which leads to death.
  • The second specific manslaughter charge is intoxication manslaughter which is recklessly causing the death of another person due to driving while intoxicated.


If there are more specific causes of a person’s death, the charge of murder may be filed.

According to state laws someone can be convicted of murder if they are responsible for someone’s death and the state can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the person committing the crime:

  • Intentionally and knowingly caused the death of an individual.
  • Intended to cause serious harm and committed an act which is clearly dangerous and led to the death of an individual.
  • Intended to, or committed a felony and in the act of that felony, or in fleeing from that act, clearly committed an act dangerous to human life which led to the death of an individual.

Capital Murder

Manslaughter & Murder Charges in Houston

In addition to the requirements for murder listed above, a person may be charged with capital murder if their offenses match more specific requirements.

The following requirements can lead to a capital murder charge:

  • The person killed was a peace officer or firefighter acting lawfully in their job.
  • A murder was intentionally committed during a kidnapping, robbery, burglary, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction, or terroristic threat.
  • A person paid for or was paid to commit the murder.
  • If the murder occurred in an attempt to escape a prison or jail.
  • If a person murders someone while serving their sentence in prison or jail.
  • If more than one person conspires to kill an individual while in jail.
  • If the person kills more than one person at the same time or at different times by the same means.
  • If the individual murdered was under the age of 10.
  • If the person murders someone who serves as a member of the judiciary such as a judge or prosecutor.

Defending Against A Murder Or Manslaughter Charge

The constitution grants everyone the right to innocence until proven guilty. If you are faced with a murder or manslaughter charge it is important to contact an attorney immediately to help you protect your rights.

There are a number of possible defenses you and your attorney can discuss. Clearly written in the Texas Penal Code are the words, intentionally and knowingly. This means a person must clearly understand and be aware the act they commit could lead to someone’s death in order for them to be charged and convicted with murder. However, they may still be charged with manslaughter.

Murder/Manslaughter And Self Defense

As stated in at the beginning not every homicide is a criminal homicide. This is clear when you take into consideration self-defense. If you has been charged with murder or manslaughter you may have an argument you acted in self defense. What does it mean to have acted in self defense?

You are allowed to use force, up to and including deadly force, in a number of situations to protect yourself. First, self-defense laws state that you, or someone else, must be in immediate danger or face the threat of immediate danger. You must also not have provoked the violence used by the offending person or be committing another crime at the time.

If you meet these self-defense laws, you may be allowed to use deadly force in your self defense. Deadly force is acceptable to use when you are protecting yourself or another person from the threat of:

  • Deadly force, such as murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual assault
  • Robbery
Manslaughter & Murder Charges in Houston

You may also be justified in using deadly force if you know or believe someone has unlawfully entered or is in the process of unlawfully removing a person from your house, business, or vehicle.

As long as you are legally allowed to be where you are at the time this act occurred, you are not required to retreat from the location before you use force to defend yourself or another person.

What Type Of Penalties Do I Face If Convicted?

If you are convicted of manslaughter, murder, or capital murder you can face a wide range of penalties.

  • Manslaughter – a second-degree felony
    • Prison sentence between two (2) years and 20 years.
    • Fine of up to $10,000.
  • Murder – a first-degree felony
    • Prison sentence between five (5) years and 99 years.
    • Fine of up to $10,000.
    • During sentencing, a defendant is allowed to argue they committed the murder while under the influence of a sudden passion of adequate cause. If you can prove you acted because of a sudden passion, the sentence can be reduced to a second-degree felony carrying the penalty of:
      • Prison sentence between two (2) years and 20 years.
      • Fine of up to $10,000.
  • Capital Murder – capital felony
    • A sentence of up to 99 years.
    • Life in prison.
    • Death penalty, unless the guilty party is under 17, has a mental disability, or is declared insane.

Contact An Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney If You Face A Murder Or Manslaughter Charge

If you have been charged with murder/manslaughter in the Houston area it is crucial you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You face stiff and severe penalties if you are convicted of manslaughter or murder.

A criminal defense lawyer will make sure all of your rights are protected and you receive a fair and equitable decision. Contact or call Vinas & Graham for a consultation at 713-229-9992.

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