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Homicide charges come in several forms in Texas


Last week in this blog we discussed the definition of capital murder under Texas law. Capital murder is the most serious homicide charge in Texas, but there are others. Homicide -- which refers to any unlawful killing of a person -- can be charged as murder, capital murder, manslaughter or negligent homicide. This week we will take a look at the three forms of homicide other than capital murder.

In Texas, murder is defined as the intentional killing of another person. The definition of murder also includes causing the death of another person while intending to inflict great bodily harm and while committing an act that is clearly dangerous to human life. Murder can also be charged if a person is killed while the defendant is committing a felony other than manslaughter. Murder is charged as a first degree felony in Texas. However, if the defendant can affirmatively prove the act was committed in the heat of passion with adequate cause, the charge may be reduced to a second degree felony.

Manslaughter is a second degree felony in Texas. It is defined as recklessly causing the death of a person. Recklessness is more than mere negligence, inattentiveness or bad behavior. It means committing a dangerous act, with awareness of the danger and conscious disregard for the safety of other people.

Negligent homicide is a state jail felony. It is defined as causing the death of a person through criminal negligence. A person is criminally negligent when they should be aware of a substantial risk and their failure to perceive the risk is a gross departure from the level of care a reasonable person would exercise.

A person facing any form of homicide charge in Texas needs to fight the charges with every legal and factual argument available. Experienced defense attorneys can help those facing these serious charges to understand their options and formulate the right defense strategy.

Source: Tex. Penal Code § 19.03, accessed Aug. 9, 2015

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