Although there are several differences between manslaughter and murder, the key difference between these two offenses is usually intent. Both crimes involve homicide, which is the killing of another human being. Not all homicide crimes are the same, however, as implied by the distinction between manslaughter and murder.
That’s not to say that manslaughter isn’t a serious crime. It’s a second-degree felony, which can be penalized with up to 20 years in prison. Such a sentence, however, is far less severe than life in prison or the death penalty, which are both available for murder charges.
What Is Considered Manslaughter?
In Texas, manslaughter is a homicide that occurs as a result of someone’s recklessness. Unlike murder, manslaughter doesn’t require the intent to kill another person. If someone’s death was the result of an accident, manslaughter charges can follow.
Examples of manslaughter can include the following scenarios:
- A driver striking and killing a pedestrian
- Recklessly discharging a firearm in someone’s direction
- Killing someone in a barfight
- Unintentionally giving a patient a deadly dose of medication
The examples above also describe voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.
Voluntary manslaughter happens when an intentional act leads to the unintentional consequence of killing someone. When someone gets into a fight, for example, they can intend to hurt the other individual without intending to kill them.
“Heat of passion” is also a component of voluntary manslaughter. This refers to a strong provocation without a “cooling-off” period that causes someone to act intentionally without necessarily intending to kill. A classic example of this is someone coming home to find their spouse in bed with someone else and killing that other person.
Involuntary manslaughter is also called negligent homicide. This type of killing occurs as the result of criminal negligence or while someone commits a misdemeanor.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is considered a criminally negligent act, so someone can be convicted of involuntary manslaughter if they kill someone while committing a misdemeanor DUI.
One of the examples above illustrated a medical professional giving a patient a deadly dose of medication. This can also be considered involuntary manslaughter due to criminal negligence.
Defining Murder in Texas
As previously stated, intent is murder’s defining feature. That means someone accused of murder is implicitly accused of intending to kill someone.
There are varying levels of murder in Texas to accommodate different kinds of intent. When someone plots or premeditates killing another person, this is known as first-degree murder. Second-degree murder is considered a “crime of passion” that occurs when someone is severely provoked, has a chance to “cool down,” but decides to kill another person anyway.
Capital murder is more severe than first-degree and second-degree murder. This is a type of murder for which the death penalty is reserved.
Capital murder may be charged when:
- The defendant was aware that the alleged victim was a law enforcement officer or firefighter
- The alleged murder occurred during the commission of one of these felonies: aggravated sexual assault, arson, kidnapping, obstruction or retaliation, pursuit of a terroristic threat, or theft
- The defendant was allegedly paid or received a promise of payment to commit murder
- The defendant allegedly killed someone during a prison escape
- The defendant allegedly killed more than one person on the same occasion or as the result of a series of similar killings
- The alleged victim was a child younger than 10
- The alleged victim was a judge and the killing occurred as an act of retaliation against them
Assisting Clients Accused of Homicide
If you are charged with manslaughter or murder in Texas, Alband, Lane & Balderrama can help. You need experienced and competent legal counsel to ensure your rights are protected and that you are fairly treated by the system.
Our personalized legal service can ensure no stones are left unturned in your defense. We understand what’s at risk when a client is accused of homicide and take their legal situation extremely seriously. Rest assured that you can have a better chance at reaching a better outcome by hiring Alband, Lane & Balderrama to handle your defense.
To learn more, contact our firm today and request a consultation.