Murder/Manslaughter Charges in Fort Bend County, Texas

The killing of another person is an extremely serious crime that is punishable by death in the state of Texas. Individuals who are charged with murder or a related crime should waste no time in contacting aFort Bend County criminal defense attorney right away. If you’re facing trial for the death of another person, you need to understand what rights you have.

Defining Criminal Homicide

Chapter 5, Title 19 of the Texas Penal Code specifies the definition of criminal homicide. According to Section 19.01, a person commits criminal homicide if he or she:

Intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.

Following this definition, criminal homicide encompasses murder, capital murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

What Constitutes Murder in the State of Texas?

Section 19.02 establishes a more specific definition of what qualifies as murder under Texas law. A person commits murder if he or she:

  1. Intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
  2. Intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
  3. 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.

Murder is punishable as a first degree felony under Texas law. If convicted of murder, defendants have the right to present evidence during the sentencing phase to demonstrate that the crime was provoked by a sudden and intense passion. If the defendant’s criminal defense attorney is able to establish that the murder was a crime of passion, the charge may be downgraded to a second degree felony.

Establishing the Criteria for Capital Murder

Texas law differentiates between murder and capital murder. In order for a crime to qualify as capital murder, certain conditions must be met. Under Section 19.03, a person commits capital murder if he or she:

  1. Knowingly kills a peace officer or fireman during the commission of their official duties
  2. Causes the death of someone during the commission of another crime, including kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation or terrorist activities
  3. Kills another person in exchange for money or hires someone to commit a murder in exchange for money
  4. Murders someone while escaping or attempting to escape from prison
  5. Kills a prison employee or other inmate while incarcerated
  6. Causes the death of someone under 6 years of age
  7. Kills a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court

Under Texas law, capital murder constitutes a capital felony.

Murder vs. Manslaughter

The elements of manslaughter as defined by Texas law are far more simplistic than those for murder. According to Section 19.04, a person commits manslaughter if he or she recklessly causes the death of another individual. Manslaughter is classified as a second degree felony under Texas law.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Under Section 19.05, an individual is guilty of criminally negligent homicide if they cause the death of someone else through their negligent behavior. Criminally negligent homicide is punishable as a state jail felony under Texas law.

What Are the Penalties for Murder in Texas?

The penalties for criminal homicide in the state of Texas vary depending on the type of crime you’re convicted of. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could face a minimum incarceration period of 180 days in state jail. If convicted of a capital murder, the minimum sentence may be increased to life imprisonment. If the crime you’re accused of is deemed particularly heinous, the prosecutors could choose to seek the death penalty. The state of Texas currently uses lethal injection as its chosen form of administering a death sentence.

This table demonstrates the range of sentences a defendant may face if convicted of murder or a similar crime.

Conviction TypeMaximum FineMinimum TermMax. Term
State Jail Felony$10,000180 days2 years
3rd Degree Felony$10,0002 years10 years
2nd Degree Felony$10,0002 years20 years
1st Degree Felony$10,0005 years99 years
Capital FelonyN/ALifeDeath

Defending Yourself Against a Murder Charge in Fort Bend County, Texas

Cases involving the death of another person are not taken lightly in the state of Texas. If you or someone you love has been charged with murder, manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, you need to speak with an experienced Fort Bend County criminal defense attorney immediately.

With the aid of a qualified Texas homicide lawyer, you can establish the strongest defense for your case. Some examples of defenses your attorney may suggest include:

  • Mistaken identity
  • Self-defense
  • Lack of intent, i.e. the victim’s death was accident
  • Temporary insanity
  • Liability on the part of the victim in causing their own death

Your Fort Bend County Homicide Attorney should be prepared to aggressively defend your rights and work to get you the best resolution possible. In cases where your innocence cannot be established absolutely, defense counsel should make every effort to reduce the charges against you to achieve a lesser sentence. The aid of expert legal representation is particularly crucial in capital murder cases, particularly since Texas currently leads the nation in executions.

Fort Bend County criminal defense lawyer Lee D. Cox specializes in helping individuals who have been charged with murder or other violent crimes against persons to defend their rights. As a former prosecutor, Lee is familiar with the complexities of the Texas legal system and he is prepared to go to work on your behalf.

Call Lee D. Cox today at 281-762-7345 to discuss your case. A conviction for murder in the state of Texas can irrevocably alter your life and the lives of your family members. Don’t waste another minute in getting the help you need to defend yourself against a murder or manslaughter charge.

20+ Years of Experience in Criminal Defense

I began my career with the District Attorney's office and have been in private practice focusing on criminal defense in Fort Bend and surrounding counties since 2002.

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