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What Differentiates Murder And Capital Murder In Texas?

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Murder and capital murder are serious crimes in Texas, and convictions can lead to severe penalties. Capital murder is the most egregious crime in Texas and is the only offense that may result in invoking the death penalty if convicted.

If you have been charged with murder, capital murder, or another criminal homicide charge, you may have questions about what differentiates murder and capital murder in Texas. A criminal defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help you understand the charges and potential penalties for a conviction.

Elements Of Murder In Texas

In general, to prove a murder case, prosecutors must show that the defendant 1) intentionally or knowingly caused someone’s death, or 2) intended to cause serious bodily harm to someone resulting in death, or 3) committed a felony resulting in death.

Sometimes prosecutors charge defendants with murder even when they do not have adequate evidence to secure a conviction. This is a common tactic used by prosecutors to try to scare defendants into pleading guilty to a lesser offense, such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

Unfortunately, this strategy sometimes works, and defendants accept a plea bargain that is not in their best interests. When facing any type of homicide charge, it is important to ensure that you have competent and experienced legal representation to help you defend your case and negotiate plea deals that are favorable to you.

What Elevates Murder To Capital Murder?

As mentioned above, the death penalty can only be invoked in Texas for someone who has been convicted of capital murder. Murder can be upgraded to capital murder if specific aggravating circumstances exist, including but not limited to the following:

  • The murder victim was an on-duty peace officer or fireman.
  • The murder was intentionally committed during a kidnapping, burglary, aggravated sexual assault, or other specified crime.
  • It was a murder for hire.
  • The murder happened during an escape or attempted escape from prison.
  • The defendant was in prison and murdered another while participating in an organized criminal activity.
  • The defendant was in prison for murder, capital murder, or other specified aggravated felonies when he murdered someone.
  • The defendant murdered more than one person during the same criminal transaction or separate criminal transactions with a common scheme or course of conduct.
  • The murder victim was younger than 15 years old.
  • The defendant murders a judge in retaliation or because of the victim’s status as a judge.

Other Types Of Criminal Homicide

There are four types of criminal homicide in Texas: murder, capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Manslaughter is defined as recklessly causing the death of someone else. It is different from murder in that there is no element of intent or premeditation to cause serious bodily harm or death required for a conviction.

There are two types of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is often referred to as a crime of passion where no premeditation is involved. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone accidentally but recklessly causes someone else’s death. Manslaughter convictions can result in significant fines and up to 20 years in prison.

Criminally negligent homicide is the least severe criminal homicide charge and occurs when a death is caused by someone’s unreasonable conduct or behavior that leads to another person’s death. A conviction for criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony that can result in fines and up to two years in prison.

Defenses To Homicide Charges

Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case and the charges you are facing, you might have one or more defense strategies. Frequently raised defenses to homicide charges include lack of evidence to convict, someone else was responsible for the crime, you did not intend to seriously injure anyone, and self-defense.

Even if you believe that the prosecutors have enough evidence to convict you of a homicide crime, your charges might be dismissed or reduced if the police violated your constitutional rights during an interrogation or a search and seizure. Your attorney might also help negotiate a plea bargain to reduce your charges to a less severe offense.

Speak With A Texas Capital Murder Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with murder or another homicide crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney advocating for your defense. Contact Vinas & Graham, PLLC, at 713-229-9992 or submit a contact form to speak with a Texas capital murder defense attorney. We will discuss your case and potential legal strategies.

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