A person charged with homicide faces quite a significant amount of time in custody, and in the case of murder; the possibility of never being released. In the extreme case of capital murder, the accused faces being sentenced to death. If you have been charged with homicide, capital murder, murder or manslaughter in Texas, it is of the utmost importance that you hire an expert criminal defense attorney team like we have assembled at Dyer & Libby Attorneys at Law. We have the knowledge, experience and resources to provide the best defense possible. While there are several types of homicide that range from manslaughter to capital murder, in some cases, with the assistance of a very skilled defense attorney team like Dyer & Libby with the necessary education and resources at our disposal; a murder case could be reduced to a lesser charge of manslaughter, or even dismissed altogether due to our skillful legal defenses.
Criminal Homicide Charges Defined
Criminal Homicide is the killing of one human being by another; either intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence. It includes both murder and manslaughter. A killing is lawful when it is done with justification, in self-defense or defense of another person where there is an imminent threat of being killed. Capital murder, murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide are all considered criminal homicide.
Capital Murder – Penal Code Sec. 19.03
Capital Murder is the equivalent to first degree murder in other states. A defendant convicted for capital murder can receive a sentence of capital punishment. To convict a defendant, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
– Knowingly and intentionally caused the death of another human being
– Intended to cause serious bodily injury and committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life that ultimately caused the death of an individual;
– While committing or attempting to commit a felony (other than manslaughter), committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death of an individual.
In addition, for the charge to be capital murder, one of the following factors must apply:
– The victim is a fireman or peace officer acting under lawful duty at the time of the crime
– The defendant murders someone in retaliation for or on account of the service of a member of the judiciary
– The defendant intentionally commits the murder while committing or attempting to commit burglary, robbery, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat
– The defendant is either paid to commit murder or pays someone else to commit murder;
– The defendant commits the crime while trying to escape from a penal institution;
– The defendant murders another person while in jail
– The defendant murders more than one human being
– The defendant murders a child younger than six years of age
Penalties, Sentences and Defenses to Capital Murder
In Texas, capital murder carries a very serious and heavy penalty. Since Texas is a state that allows capital punishment, it is possible to receive a death penalty sentence here. In general, the sentence for a capital felony in Texas is either death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Defense strategies that Dyer & Libby may employ to first degree murder charges include lack on intent, lack of knowledge, insanity, intoxication and self-defense. If the defendant is declared to be incapacitated (for example with a mental disability or is declared insane) they will be spared from the death penalty. The minimum age in Texas that a defendant may receive the death penalty is 17 years of age.
Murder – Penal Code Sec. 19.02
To convict a defendant of murder, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
– The defendant intentionally and knowingly caused the death of another human being;
– The defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury and committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death of a human being;
– The defendant committed or attempted to commit a felony (other than manslaughter) and in performing that felony, committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death of another human being.
Penalties, Sentences and Defenses to Murder
Murder in Texas is a first degree felony that typically carries a sentence of between five and 99 years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Defenses to murder that Dyer & Libby may employ include lack of intent, lack of knowledge, insanity, intoxication, self-defense and “heat of passion” defense. If the defendant is found to have been in the heat of passion at the time of the homicide, the charge can be reduced to second degree felony which reduces the sentence to between two and twenty years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Manslaughter – Penal Code Sec. 19.04
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, deliberation, malice or premeditation. A person commits manslaughter if they recklessly cause the death of another human being. Texas does not officially use the terms “involuntary manslaughter” or “voluntary manslaughter”; rather Texas combines the two into a single charge with enhanced penalties under specific circumstances.
Elements of Texas Manslaughter
Vehicular Manslaughter occurs when a person is criminally negligent or conducts murderous operation of a vehicle and unintentionally and unlawfully kills another human being. For example when the driver knows that there is a defect in the vehicle but still drives and someone is killed as a result of that defect. Intoxication Manslaughter is when the defendant recklessly causes the death of another human being while intoxicated. Reckless Conduct has no requirement of premeditation, intent or knowledge for the defendant. The only requirement is that the defendants conduct was reckless.
Penalties, Sentences and Defenses to Manslaughter
To convict a defendant of manslaughter, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant recklessly caused the death of another human being. There are many defenses to the crime of manslaughter such as insanity, self-defense and “heat of passion”. Dyer & Libby can inform you if any of these defenses are available in your specific situation. Manslaughter in Texas is a second degree felony and this charge will typically carry a sentence of between two to twenty years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Criminally Negligent – Penal Code Sec. 19.05
This is when an individual causes the death of a human being by criminal negligence. It is considered a fourth degree felony which carries a sentence of between 180 days to 2 years in a state jail facility. However, if prosecutors allege that a deadly weapon was used (for example the car the defendant was driving), the crime becomes a third degree felony which carries a sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 and removes the ability for the judge to give the defendant probation.
If you have been charged with a homicide offense in Houston Texas or surrounding areas, it is of the utmost importance that you seek the services of a resourceful criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in all types of homicide cases. Dyer & Libby understands the serious nature of this offense, how best to defend you, and how best to resolve your case with the goal of you not going to jail or if not realistic, going to jail for the least amount possible. We have extensive knowledge of Texas laws and our state’s legal system and we have developed excellent relationships with law enforcement and law officials throughout the Houston, Texas area. For more information about the various ways to handle a homicide case, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Dyer & Libby Attorneys at Law today.