Manslaughter: Texas Penal Code §19.04

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Manslaughter law is defined simply: “A person commits an offense if he recklessly causes the death of an individual.”

In other words, the police can arrest you for Manslaughter if they believe that you caused someone’s death by doing something reckless.

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The Manslaughter crime is one of several Texas crimes related to causing someone’s death. Other crimes in Texas that require the state to prove someone’s death by homicide include Capital Murder, Manslaughter, Intoxication Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide. Except for Intoxication Manslaughter, these are all considered Criminal Homicide charges and described in Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code.

In 2023, the Texas legislature added a new enhancement to the Texas Manslaughter law. The new enhancement applies to situations where someone was killed as a result of damage to a critical infrastructure facility. Learn more about the 2023 enhancement here.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Manslaughter law under Title 5 “Offenses Against the Person,” Chapter 19 “Criminal Homicide.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Manslaughter below.

What is the current Texas law about Manslaughter?

Texas law currently defines the offense of Manslaughter in Penal Code Section §19.04 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if he recklessly causes the death of an individual.

The Texas legislature updated the penalty scheme for the Manslaughter law in 2023.

How can I be charged with a Manslaughter offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Manslaughter in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 19.04(a) as described in the section above have been met. Sometimes Manslaughter charges might be the result of a plea bargain where a person was initially charged with a higher grade of criminal homicide like Murder.

What is the statute of limitation for Manslaughter in Texas?

Manslaughter has no limitations period under Texas law.[2]

What is the penalty for a Texas Manslaughter offense?

A conviction for Manslaughter in Texas is typically punished as a second degree felony,[3] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and prison time of up to 20 years.

What changed in 2023?

In 2023, the legislature updated subsection (b) of the Texas Manslaughter law related to the penalty scheme for the offense. As of 2023, a Manslaughter offense can be punished as a first degree felony if the defendant committed the Damaging Critical Infrastructure Facility offense (a new offense for 2023) and that conduct caused the death of an individual.[4]

Can you get probation for Manslaughter in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Manslaughter, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[5]

Note, however, that no matter the offense, neither judges nor juries may recommend community supervision for any suspended sentence of over 10 years.[6] Also, judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[7]

What level of crime is Manslaughter in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies the punishment for Manslaughter as either a first degree felony or a second degree felony, depending on the circumstances.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.

Can a Texas Manslaughter offense be reduced?

Yes, a Manslaughter charge can be reduced. Manslaughter could be reduced to Attempted Manslaughter, Criminally Negligent Homicide, or all the way down to Assault.

^1. Texas Penal Code §19.04. This law is current as of 2024.^2. Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(1)(A)^3. Texas Penal Code §19.04(b)^4. Texas Penal Code §19.04(b), as amended by SB 947, 88th Legislature (RS), Section 1^5. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^6. Art. 42A.053(c), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^7. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure

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