Of all of the crimes covered in any criminal code, those that deal with criminal homicide are the most serious in terms of punishments involved. If you or someone you love is facing such a charge, it could literally be a life-or-death situation if the most serious charge has been filed. As stressful and terrifying as this situation can be for anyone, fighting back with every legal option at your disposal has never been more important.
Texas Criminal Homicide Laws – An Overview
In the most general terms, there are four different types of criminal homicide that exist within the Texas statutes, in decreasing order of severity:
Criminally negligent homicide
A person commits murder if he or she:
- Intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
- Intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits 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 of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
As can be seen, in the first two instances, a person must have the intent to kill someone or the intent to inflict serious bodily injury. Subsection (3) deals with what is commonly known as the Felony Murder Doctrine, whereby a person is guilty of murder if he or she kills someone by committing an act clearly dangerous to human life even if he or she did not intend to kill or cause serious bodily injury.
A person convicted of murder is guilty of a first degree felony, which means that he or she could face a prison term of 5 – 99 years, or life in prison.
The most commonly charged methods of committing capital murder are as follows:
A person commits capital murder if he or she intentionally or knowingly:
- Murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
- Commits murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat;
- Commits a murder for hire;
- Murders more than one person:
- during the same criminal transaction; or
- during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct; or
- Murders an individual under six years of age.
There are other conditions that could result in a charge of capital murder, but the distinction between this statute and that of murder deals directly with the possible penalty allowable upon a conviction. A person convicted of capital murder can be punished by imprisonment for life without parole or by death.
An individual is guilty of manslaughter if he or she recklessly causes the death of another. A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances surrounding his conduct exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if someone is acting recklessly, prosecutors do not need to prove that the person acted with any specific intent to kill someone. A conviction for manslaughter is a second degree felony. This means that a prison term between 2 – 20 years could be adjudged.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
A person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide if he or she causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence. A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances surrounding his conduct exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint. This offense is a state jail felony, which means that a term in a state jail of not less than 180 days but not more than 2 years could be adjudged.
How to Proceed
If you or someone you love is facing this situation, you need to act now to preserve your rights and begin to prepare the best defense possible. Contact The Law Office of Katheryn H. Haywood to discuss representation, defenses and fees.