Homicide is one of the most serious crimes that you can be charged with, and it is imperative that you hire a skilled criminal defense attorney to represent you. A homicide charge can result in complex legal proceedings and severe penalties if convicted. Your attorney could be the difference between life or death.
Types of Criminal Homicide in Texas
A person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of another. There are four types of homicide in Texas: 1) murder, 2) capital murder, 3) manslaughter, and 4) criminally negligent homicide.
An individual commits murder if another person is killed and:
- The defendant intentionally or knowingly killed the individual;
- The defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury and committed an act that was dangerous to human life; OR
- The defendant committed or attempted to commit a felony (other than manslaughter), and while attempting to commit or flee that felony, the defendant committed a dangerous act that killed an individual. This is known as felony murder.
Murder is most often a first-degree felony and punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison or life imprisonment.
- Capital Murder
An individual commits capital murder under a number of different circumstances, including:
- The defendant killed an on-duty peace officer or fireman, and the defendant knew that the person was a peace officer or fireman;
- The defendant killed the individual during the course of committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat;
- The defendant was paid to commit the murder or paid someone to commit the murder;
- The defendant committed the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
- The defendant murdered more than one person, either as part of the same criminal act or pursuant to a scheme of conduct or plan; OR
- The defendant murders a child under ten years old.
Capital murder may be punishable either by life imprisonment without parole or death.
An individual commits manslaughter when he kills another recklessly. A person acts recklessly when he is aware that there is a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a death will occur, but disregards the risk and acts anyway. For example, a person acts recklessly when he or she shoots a gun in the direction of a large crowd without intentionally aiming at anyone.
Manslaughter is a second-degree felony and punishable by between 2 and 20 years in prison.
- Criminally Negligent Homicide
An individual commits a criminally negligent homicide when he kills another as a result of “criminal negligence.” There is “criminal negligence” where a defendant is not aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm but should have been aware. For example, if you are playing with a gun and accidentally shot another person.
Criminally negligent homicide is punishable by a state jail term between 180 days and two years.
Defenses to a Homicide Charge
Murder cases are intensive, and you must find a skilled criminal defense attorney who can complete a thorough analysis of all the evidence, including DNA, ballistics testing, GSR testing, blood splatter, autopsies, and multiple witnesses. A competent attorney will explore a variety of defenses, including mistaken identity, self-defense, and defense of a third party.
- Mistaken Identity
Your criminal defense attorney may argue that the prosecution has charged the wrong person with the homicide by challenging the evidence that places the defendant at the scene of the crime.
Under Texas law, a person is justified in killing another in self-defense under certain limited situations. First, the defendant must not have been the first aggressor. Secondly, the force used must be reasonable and proportionate under the circumstances and not only a response to verbal provocation. A person cannot stab someone multiple times because they slapped you. Whether the force is justified is based on whether a reasonable person in the same situation would have acted in the same manner.
- Defense of a Third Person
A defendant is also justified in killing if he acted in defense of a third person if the defendant reasonably believes that the third person would be justified in using self-defense, and the defendant reasonably believes that his or her immediate intervention is needed to protect the third person.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with homicide, you should not delay in reaching out to a local criminal defense attorney. Philip D. Ray is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor based in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area who will provide you with a skilled and aggressive defense. Call The Law Offices of Philip D. Ray at (214) 845-7987 for a consultation.