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Murder Law Image

Murder

The Texas offense of Murder is just one of the Texas homicide crimes. Among them are Capital Murder, carrying a maximum penalty of death, Manslaughter, Intoxication Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide. While Capital Murder is the most serious crime in the Texas penal code, other homicide crimes carry extremely severe penalties as well, ranging from a maximum of 20 years in TDC for manslaughter and 2 years in state jail for criminally negligent homicide.

What is the Texas Murder law?

The Texas offense of Murder is defined in the Texas Penal Code at Section 19.02:

(b) A person commits an offense if he:

(1) intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;

(2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or

(3) commits or attempts 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, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.

What is penalty range for a Murder conviction in Texas?

Murder is punishable as a first degree felony1, with a penalty range from 5 to 99 years or life in prison. However, if you prove that you “caused the death under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause” by a preponderance of the evidence at the punishment stage of a trial (after conviction), then the offense is punishable as as second degree felony with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.2

How can you defend against a murder or manslaughter charge?

The best defense to a homicide charge is the defense that begins before an arrest is made. If you are under investigation or a homicide crime, please contact us immediately–before you agree to cooperate with a police investigation or interrogation. The decision about whether to cooperate with a police investigation is not a decision you should make alone: you need the advice of a criminal defense attorney and you need representation throughout the process.

In addition, the best defense involves a good offense. By that I mean a thorough and independent investigation, evaluation of the police department’s investigation, and forensic evidence. Our experienced homicide defense attorney can coordinate all of this in order to defend you in the most effective way possible. In addition, we can work to get a murder or manslaughter indictment no-billed, before you are even formally charged.

If you or a loved-one has already been arrested for homicide, then the investigation is not over–it is only just beginning. In addition, we work to confront the state on all of its evidence and find the most strategic legal defense to all of the state’s accusations.

What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

Criminal Homicide is codified under Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code. Texas state law says criminal homicide is classified as either murder, capital murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide.
A person can be convicted of murder under Texas state law when that person:

  • Intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual; OR
  • Intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; OR
  • Commits or attempts 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, the person commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.

In the first two circumstances, a person must have the intent to commit harm. This is a mindset that the state must prove. However, you can be convicted of murder without any intent to harm someone under the third circumstance described above, where a person kills someone by committing an act “clearly dangerous to human life.” This is commonly known as the Felony Murder Doctrine.

All murder convictions are a minimum offense level of a first degree felony, meaning that a conviction will entail the potential for a prison term of 5 to 99 years, or life, in Texas state prison. More on the range of punishment for Texas crimes here >>

The definition of manslaughter under Texas law is simple– A person commits manslaughter under Texas law if the person recklessly causes the death of an individual. Manslaughter is a felony of the second degree.

So the two main differences between murder and manslaughter are 1) the way in which the death was caused (was it intentional, reckless or caused during the commission of a felony?) and 2) the penalty range (a first degree felony for murder versus a second degree felony for manslaughter). It is also important to note that Capital Murder is a separate charge under Texas state law.

What is Criminally Negligent Homicide?

Under Texas law, criminally negligent homicide is an offense committed when he or she causes the death of an individual by “criminal negligence.” Of course the critical definition to understand is criminal negligence. And for this, you have to look at case law and what a jury finds. Please speak with our criminal defense attorney to discuss the specific circumstances in your case.

The offense of criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony.3


Legal References:
1 Texas Penal Code Section 19.02(c)
2 Texas Penal Code Section 19.02(d)
3 Texas Penal Code Section 19.05(b)

Published by Criminal Defense Attorney on and last modified