When it comes to criminal charges, homicide charges are obviously the most serious of all. In Texas, there are four distinct homicide charges, and it can help to better understand what is involved with each.
Nearly every murder charge is a first-degree felony because a murder charge only applies when the accused is alleged to have known that his or her actions would leave someone else dead. Murder charges can also apply when the accused’s alleged actions are so egregiously dangerous that they were likely to cause the death of someone else. In those situations in which the commission of another felony causes someone else to die, it can translate to murder charges (rather than the manslaughter charges that likely would have applied if the additional felony were not a factor).
One caveat is that when a murder is deemed a crime of passion, it is a second-degree felony, but proving that there was adequate cause for this level of sudden passion is a high bar.
A murder charge becomes a capital offense when any of the following apply:
If an on-duty firefighter, police officer, or employee of a penal institution is murdered
If more than one person is killed during a criminal act
If the victim is under the age of 10
If a death that occurs is a result of the commission or the attempted commission of kidnapping, burglary, arson, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, obstruction, retaliation, or terrorist threat
Ultimately, the presiding judge must determine whether or not the act in question qualifies as a capital murder charge.
Manslaughter is a second-degree felony in the State of Texas, and it applies when a death occurs as a result of recklessness (as opposed to premeditation). Manslaughter charges break down into two classifications.
Involuntary manslaughter applies when the accused allegedly kills someone else accidentally (without intention). These charges are often based on rage that has been provoked, fear, or desperation. Fatal drunk driving accidents commonly lead to involuntary manslaughter charges.
Voluntary manslaughter refers to incidents in which the accused allegedly succumbs to a passion-based killing in the moment (that lacks premeditation). These charges are often levied for killings borne of provoked rage, but the provocation in question must be proven. (Related: Murder vs. Manslaughter Charges)
Read about vehicular manslaughter: Vehicular Manslaughter under Texas Law
Criminally Negligent Homicide
The charge of criminally negligent homicide refers to those incidents when criminal negligence causes someone else to die. Examples include:
Causing an accident and not seeking the necessary help
Fatal accidents caused by reckless driving (Reckless Driving Charges Are Very Real)
It Is Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing a homicide charge of any kind, the stakes could not be higher. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a formidable criminal defense attorney who is well-prepared and well-positioned to zealously advocate for your legal rights and for your case’s optimal outcome. We’re on your side and here to help, so don’t wait to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 to begin building your strongest defense today.