Murder vs. Manslaughter Charges


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Murder vs. Manslaughter Charges

When someone is criminally responsible for another person’s death, the charge brought will typically be manslaughter or murder. The distinction between the two charges is quite straightforward, but this does not mean determining whether a death is murder or manslaughter is an easy matter. Both charges are severe, and being convicted of either has severe legal consequences.

The Distinction Hinges on Intent

The distinction between manslaughter and murder hinges on the defendant’s intent in the matter. While the result of both murder and manslaughter remains the same, the alleged perpetrator’s state of mind at the time plays an essential role in the legal proceedings and his or her criminal liability. If the alleged perpetrator is determined to have intended to kill the victim, it is a different legal matter than if they are determined not to have intended to do so. Determining someone else’s state of mind at a specific moment in time, however, can be exceptionally difficult.


Manslaughter is a lower level of criminal culpability than is murder. While the State of Texas has only one manslaughter charge (instead of the voluntary and involuntary distinction that many states make), it does have legal enhancements for varying degrees of criminal culpability. Manslaughter is a crime in which someone causes the death of another due to recklessness. Typical examples can include:

  • A death caused by reckless driving

  • A death caused by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • A death caused by accidentally discharging a gun

The defendants in these examples did not set out with the intention of hurting or killing anyone, but they all knew – or should have known – that their actions were hazardous (and potentially deadly). A manslaughter conviction can lead to a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison.


The charge of murder requires that the defendant willfully and knowingly caused the death of someone else. If the person’s intent was any of the following (and it leads to death), he or she could be charged with murder:

  • To kill

  • To cause serious harm

  • To commit a felony

Further, Texas makes a distinction between murder and capital murder. Generally, to reach the level of capital murder, the charge must involve a mitigating factor such as one of the following:

  • The murder of someone in law enforcement

  • Multiple murders

  • Murder for hire

A murder conviction can lead to from 5 to 99 years in prison, but a capital murder conviction is punishable by a sentence of life without parole or even by death.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Lawyer Today

If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, it is a serious matter. If you are facing murder or manslaughter charges, it is more serious still. Brett Pritchard, at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a proficient criminal lawyer who is committed to focusing his impressive experience and skill on building your strongest defense – in support of your rights and your future. Please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.

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