The Most Serious Crime in the Texas Penal Code
If you have been charged with a form of homicide, you may have already been convicted in the court of public opinion. Although the American justice system assumes that individuals accused of crimes are innocent until proven otherwise, society often judges a person guilty before he even sets foot in a courtroom. If you are facing a murder charge, friends and family members may have turned their backs on you.
The seriousness of the allegations involved and the potential consequences can leave you feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and anxious. That is why you need an experienced homicide defense lawyer on your side. I am prepared to stand solidly in your corner, as I have for countless others in your shoes.
In Texas, homicide crimes are categorized as four separate criminal offenses. Capital murder, which is the only form of homicide punishable by death, is the most serious of the four. To be charged with capital murder, an individual must intentionally or knowingly:
- Murder a police officer or firefighter acting in an official capacity
- Commit murder in the course of committing a violent crime
- Commit a murder for hire
- Murder multiple victims
- Murder a child under age six
The penalties for capital murder include life imprisonment and the death penalty.
Murder Charges in Galveston or Houston
Murder is a first degree felony, which means convicted individuals can be sentenced to between five and 99 years in prison. The death penalty is not available in murder cases. A person can be charged with murder for:
- Intentionally or knowingly causing another’s death
- Intending to cause serious physical injury through the commission of a clearly dangerous act that results in death
- Causing the death of another during the commission of a dangerous felony regardless of intent to kill
Manslaughter is causing the death of another through recklessness. Although there is no intent to kill, the offender must be aware that his conduct is highly dangerous. This reckless behavior must create a substantial risk of death that an ordinary person would not undertake.
Because the state does not have to prove that the accused intended to cause the victim’s death, manslaughter cases can be difficult to defend. Many fatal car accident cases are prosecuted under a manslaughter charge. Whether you were texting and driving or got behind the wheel after too many drinks, you can find yourself facing a second degree felony conviction. Your lawyer must have a clear understanding of the facts and the ability to present them in a way that supports your defense.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
There is a fine line between manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Criminal negligence involves negligent rather than reckless behavior. In Texas, a person is negligent when he acts in a “gross deviation” from the way an ordinary person would act in a similar situation. Because the definition of gross deviation varies from person to person, prosecutors have been known to classify even innocent behavior as a gross deviation.
In some cases, merely rolling through a stop sign is enough to merit a charge for criminally negligent homicide. If convicted, offenders receive a fourth degree felony, which carries a prison term ranging between 180 days to two years.