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Murder vs. Manslaughter Charges in Texas

Texas’ criminal justice system enforces several laws that pertain to cases in which an individual is criminally responsible for another’s death, with clear distinctions between murder and manslaughter. No matter the exact charge, any offense involving the loss of life can result in incredibly severe and life-altering consequences.

The type of charge you face for crimes in which someone died will depend entirely on the unique facts involved. To help you better understand how Texas classifies these violent crimes, we’ve put together the following information:

  • Intent – The distinguishing aspect between manslaughter and murder is intent. In legal terminology, intent may be referred to as mens rea, which is the intention to commit a wrongful and / or illegal act, or the knowledge of committing a wrongful and illegal act in regard to the circumstances a killing occurred. This means that while mens rea can apply to both manslaughter and murder, there is a distinct difference in criminal culpability based on mens rea, or a person’s state of mind. The premise is that when one’s actions resulted in death ( which is the same result of both manslaughter and murder), the defendant’s state of mind should be considered when determining their criminal liability. It provides an answer to whether a person who did not intend to kill should be held accountable in the same manner as someone who did intend to kill another, and is the very reason criminal laws make a clear distinction between manslaughter and murder.
  • Manslaughter – Manslaughter, which is differentiated from murder for its lower level of criminal culpability and intent, constitutes one charge in the state of Texas. While other states have separate crimes for involuntary and voluntary manslaughter, Texas only makes this distinction within the one manslaughter law itself, and can enact enhancements for different levels of criminal culpability. In simple terms, Texas views manslaughter as a crime in which a person recklessly causes death of another. Texas does have separate manslaughter charges for intoxication and vehicular manslaughter. These offenses are still classified as manslaughter because, for example, a drunk driver does not intend to kill someone when they cause a fatal accident, but they should have been aware that driving drunk can have fatal consequences. Depending on the circumstance, manslaughter can pose imprisonment between 2 and 20 years.
  • Murder – Unlike manslaughter, murder involves a defendant who willfully and knowingly causes death of another. If a person had an intent to kill, cause serious harm, or commit a felony that results in death, they can be charged with murder under Texas law. Texas also distinguishing between murder and capital murder. Capital murder typically involves the killing of law enforcement, multiple murders, and murder for hire, among other factors. Murder poses between 5 – 99 years in prison, while capital murder is punishable by death, or life without parole.

The distinction between manslaughter and murder has everything to do with the facts of a case and a great deal to do with how the government chooses to construct its narrative about what happened surrounding a death and whether the defendant has intent or not. While these are very serious and complex charges, they can be defended against to prove innocence or mitigation penalties.

At The Law Offices of Jed Silverman, our Houston criminal defense attorneys have cultivated a reputation for handling the most serious and complex cases in which there is a lot on the line. If you or someone you love has been charged with a murder or manslaughter offense anywhere in the state of Texas, you need to understand that the stakes are high, and that working with proven lawyers should be a top priority for you and your future.

Jed Silverman is a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and one of just 10 percent of attorneys in the entire state to hold such distinction. With Attorney Silverman’s expertise and insight into criminal law and the requirements for proving manslaughter and murder charges, defendants facing these allegations can have a proven legal mind in their corner when fighting for their freedom and future.

To discuss a manslaughter or murder case during a free and confidential consultation, contact us today.

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