Murder / Homicide Defense Lawyer
Overview of Homicide in Texas
There are four significant homicide charges in Texas that can lead to prosecution: manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, murder, and capital murder.
In Texas, homicide charges can be brought as a state jail felony all the way up to a capital felony carrying the death penalty as a potential sentence, depending on the intent of the actor and the person harmed. However, it is also possible to receive no sentence at all in the case of justified self-defense. This article will provide an overview of the subject and answer why you need a homicide defense lawyer in Houston, Texas.
What is Considered Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide in Texas?
In Texas, manslaughter is defined as recklessly causing the death of an individual. Manslaughter is a Second-Degree felony carrying a potential sentence of 2 to 20-years in prison with a maximum fine of up to $10,000. To be charged with criminally negligent homicide, the prosecution doesn’t need to prove an individual acted recklessly but that they acted with criminal negligence resulting in the death of another. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony with a potential sentence of up to 2 years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. Both of these charges involve the state of mind of the accused and require a death to be caused by the accused’s actions or lack thereof. The main difference between recklessness and criminal negligence is the degree of culpability the accused possesses. Recklessness is typically seen as engaging in risky behavior that an individual would be actually aware of, whereas criminal negligence is risky behavior that an individual should have been aware of, even if they were not actually aware.
What is Considered Murder in Texas?
A person commits murder in Texas if they intentionally or knowingly cause the death of an individual; intent to cause serious bodily injury and commit 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 and furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight, commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual. Murder is typically a First-Degree felony carrying a potential sentence of 5 to 99-years or life imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. However, murder can be lowered to a Second-Degree felony if the accused acted under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. This would lower the potential sentence to between 2 and 20-years with a maximum fine of up to $10,000.
What is Considered Capital Murder in Texas?
Capital murder is the most serious homicide charge an individual can have in Texas. Capital murder is defined as committing murder against a person of certain status, such as a peace officer or fireman, in the course of an official duty, committing murder in the course of committing another serious felony such as kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, arson, or terroristic threat, committing murder while escaping or attempting to escape incarceration, committing murder while in a penal institute in certain circumstances, committing murder against an individual under 15 years of age, or committing murder against a person in retaliation for their judicial service. Capital murder is a capital felony meaning that individuals over the age of 18 at the time of the crime can be sentenced with the death penalty or life in prison. While individuals under 18 at the time of the crime cannot receive the death penalty, they can still receive life in prison without the possibility of parole in Texas.
What are the Most Common Types of Homicide Charges in Texas?
In Texas, the reported number of murders committed in 2020 was 1,927. This is a 37.3% increase in the number of murders from 2019. Of the 1,927 murders that occurred in 2020, 80.6% were committed by the use of firearms. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were 80 justifiable homicides in Texas in 2020 – of those, 42 were committed by police, and 38 were committed by private citizens.
What is the Range of Punishment for Homicide Charges in Texas?
As you can see, homicide charges can range from a state jail felony to a capital felony, depending on the intent of the actor, the status of the victim, and the circumstances surrounding the incident. A state jail felony carries a maximum sentence of up to 2 years in jail, whereas a capital felony can lead to the death penalty for those 18 and over at the time of the crime or life in prison. However, with the help of an experienced homicide defense lawyer, you may be able to prove justified self-defense for certain homicide charges meaning there would be no punishment for the use of justified self-defense or defense of others.
What are the Defenses to Homicide Charges in Texas?
Defense strategies can include attacking the prosecutor’s case-in-chief by arguing that the prosecution lacks proof to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be done by proving a lack of evidence or contradictory evidence. In cases of homicide charges, this is most commonly done by trying to prove the prosecution can’t pin the death on the accused. Alternatively, a defendant could plead an affirmative defense, admitting the conduct, and providing a legal justification. In cases of homicide, self-defense, defense of others, and fulfilling a duty (for LEOs) may be appropriate defenses depending on the circumstances.
Justification excluding criminal responsibility (self-defense)
In Texas, an individual can be justified in using force and deadly force to defend themselves and others (self-defense defense of others under Chapter 9 of Texas Penal Code). If these defenses are successful, a defendant can be absolved of criminal liability relating to an offense. A person is justified in using force against another as they reasonably believe it is immediately necessary to protect themselves or others against the use or attempted use of unlawful force. However, to be justified in using deadly force, an individual must reasonably believe that deadly force is immediately necessary to protect themselves or others from the use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force, or to prevent the imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.
Some situations create a legal presumption that the use of force or deadly force is necessary. However, there are also enumerated activities that dictate situations where force is not appropriate such as in response to verbal provocation alone, to resist arrest or search even when such arrest or search is unlawful unless an exception applies, when you’ve consented to or provoked the force, or when you’ve approached someone to discuss differences while armed in violation of Texas Penal Code Section 46.02 or Section 46.05.
How do you Beat Homicide Charges in Texas – Hire a Homicide Defense Lawyer in Houston, TX Today
Consult with a homicide defense lawyer right away. Homicide charges in Texas are very serious and have the potential to lead to the death penalty. The attorneys at Walker & Taylor will provide experienced legal representation to help fight the charges. Contact the firm for a free case evaluation by calling (281) 668-9957 today!
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