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Criminal Homicide: And All it Entails

Criminal Homicide

In the state of Texas Penal Code Chapter 19 states, criminal homicide is classified into four types of homicide. These are Murder, Capital Murder, Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide. Each one is different from the others and provides different criteria to be charged with it. It is also good to note the state of Texas does not have a third-degree felony charge and capital murder is considered a capital felony.

What is Murder?

Murder is one of the first types of criminal homicide in the Texas Penal Code. Murder is defined as a person who committed the offense if they intentionally killed a person. For instance, if you were to push someone off a cliff or stab someone, that would be textbook murder.

Intentionally hurting a person also includes doing something so dangerous that it causes a person to die. An example of this would be someone shooting into an empty building and accidentally killing a homeless person. The defendant plainly did not mean to kill the person, although to deter people from doing dangerous things can put others in harm's way.

There is also a felony murder where the person in the course of a felony or immediate flight from committing a felony then does something apparently dangerous to a human life and kills someone in the process. To illustrate how this would look would be like someone is driving a getaway car after they robbed a bank and they are leading police on a high-speed car chase. As they are speeding, they end up running a red light and crash into an oncoming car, killing the other innocent driver. This would be a felony murder as someone had died due to the individual fleeing from a felony crime.

Murder is a first-degree felony that consists of five years to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. An individual who is convicted of murder must serve at least half their sentence or a minimum of 30 years before they become eligible for parole.

Attempted Murder

There is no defined code for attempted murder under the Texas Penal Code but under the inchoate offense, there is a criminal attempt, which is Sec. 15.01. This is outlined as an attempt to commit an offense and even though it failed, the individual will still be charged with a such offense but allows it to be one degree lower than the original crime.

In the case of murder, attempted murder will be a second-degree felony and carry the punishment of two years to 20 years in prison.

Sudden Passion AKA Crime of Passion

In the state of Texas, there is a rare circumstance of murder that can be punishable as a second-degree felony, which would only be punishable by two years to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. This is decided during the punishment phase at the trial if the jury finds the defendant committed the act under “the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause” the punishment is reduced. This is called “sudden passion” other states may call this “voluntary manslaughter”.

An example of this type of crime would be a husband coming home to find his wife in bed with another man. In the sudden heat of the moment, he decides to kill her and the other man.

In the modern day and age, this type of defense type is outdated because if the jury is not emotionally invested in the defendant's case and simply does not like them, they will not believe in the sudden passion idea. If the jury feels sympathetic to the defendant, he might get a lower sentencing from the jury, regardless if the crime was a crime of passion or not.

What is Capital Murder?

Capital Murder is a specific type of homicide and must meet specific occurrences for this type of charge to be pressed. This type of offense can be committed on nine different occasions and holds the most severe punishment, such as:

1. If the individual knows the people they killed were a police officer or firefighter. If the police officers or firefighters were killed while they were on duty and performing their job, this is capital murder.

2. Murdering someone in the course of attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction of retaliation or terroristic threat.

3. If an individual commits or solicits murder for hire they can be charged with capital murder.

4. If an individual is escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution like a prison and commits murder this is capital murder.

5. If an incarcerated individual was to murder an employee of the prison.

6. Murdering some while already being incarcerated for murder or capital murder and while serving a life sentence for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault or aggravated robbery.

7. Murdering more than one person during the same criminal episode

8. Murdering someone under the age of 10 years old

9. Murdering someone based on their employment of being a judge

The punishment for capital murder is the most severe which can range from death by lethal injection or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Although the vast majority of states do not seek out the death penalty and most will be committed to life without parole. Capital murder is a capital felony and will always be the most severe kind of punishment.

What is Manslaughter?

A person commits this offense if they recklessly cause the death of another person. There is no premeditation to manslaughter as normally it is just an unfortunate accident. There are two types of manslaughter: involuntary and voluntary; voluntary is the crime of passion. Involuntary manslaughter is when a person is killed without any intention of causing them harm or death. For example, a gun owner hands a loaded weapon to their friend, not informing them it is loaded. Their friend accidentally squeezes the triggers and ends up shooting and killing himself. This would be manslaughter as the gun owner caused the reckless death of his friend.

This is a second-degree felony and is punishable by two years to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

What is Criminally Negligent Homicide?

This offense is committed if an individual causes the death of another by criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is defined as when an individual ignores an obvious or known risk and disregards the life and safety of others. This act of recklessness is where a person acts significantly differently from the ordinary person.

An example would be a parent leaving a loaded gun with a child, an ordinary person would understand the risk of doing that. But a person who would act significantly differently might assume it is safe and see no problem with it.

This line between ordinary and criminal negligence is not very obvious in most cases and this is the least likely to be charged. Unfortunately, it is up to the prosecution to decide if the crime is criminal or ordinary negligence and proceed to file the charges as such. And then it is up to the grand jury whether to indict or not and the jury whether to convict the individual of the crime or not.

This is a state jail felony and the punishment is 180 days to two years in a State Jail Facility with up to $10,000 in fines.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know who is facing these criminal charges, as they can hold serious consequences, including life in prison. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain to you the result of your charge(s) and guide you in the best possible way.

Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable Criminal Law attorneys who are experienced in building a defense for you that suits your needs for the best possible outcome that will benefit you.

We offer complimentary consultations via Zoom, on the phone or in-person.

Call us today at: 281-810-9760.

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