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Understanding Different Types of Homicide Charges in Texas

What are the Different Types of Homicide?

The State of Texas does not recognize degrees of murder, as used in other states. Instead, first-degree murder is considered capital murder. Second-degree murder is simply known as murder. Third-degree murder is not recognized in Texas and is only recognized in Florida, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Because Texas does not recognize degrees of murder, there are only four types of homicide.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

The Texas Penal Code defines homicide as a person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causing the death of another individual. Negligent homicide is causing the death of another individual by criminal negligence. This means that criminally negligent homicide occurs when homicide is committed by a dangerous act but without intentionality. To qualify as criminally negligent homicide, proof must be provided that while a person was unaware of the immediate consequences of their actions, they should have been aware of the danger involved. Examples of criminally negligent homicide include reckless driving, being responsible for an accident that results in someone’s death and not calling for help, leaving a child in a hot car, or firing a gun into the air.


Manslaughter is recognized as a second-degree felony in Texas. It occurs when the death of another person is caused by recklessness but with no premeditation. There are two main types of manslaughter cases in Texas:

  • Involuntary manslaughter – occurs when someone unintentionally kills another person without malice or intent to cause them serious harm. Causes of involuntary manslaughter can be due to provoked rage, desperation, or fear at the moment. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and killing another in a fatal car crash is an example of involuntary manslaughter.
  • Voluntary manslaughter – occurs when someone unintentionally kills another person by way of intentional, non-premeditated harm. Proof of sufficient provocation can lead to murder charges being reduced to voluntary manslaughter charges. These types of murders are typically considered “heat of the moment” or “crime of passion” murders.


The main differences between murder and manslaughter are intent and premeditation. Murder is committed when a person:

  • Intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual.
  • Intending to cause serious bodily harm or injury or committing an act that is incompatible with life that causes the death of another person
  • Committing or attempting to commit a felonious act other than manslaughter, and in the course of commission, attempt, completion, or flight from this act, an additional attempt to commit or committing an act that is clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual occurs. In more simple terms, this means that if a felony is being committed and a death occurs because of or in association with said felony, the perpetrator would face murder charges.
  • Knowingly manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance and an individual dies as a result of injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or introducing into the individual’s body any amount of the controlled substance manufactured or delivered by the actor, regardless of whether the controlled substance was used by itself or with another substance, including a drug, adulterant, or dilutant.

A murder can also be considered a crime of passion, which qualifies as a 2nd-degree felony. However, proof of adequate cause for sudden heat of passion must be provided, or the 1st-degree felony charge will stand. Other forms of defense typically include self-defense, lack of intent or knowledge, or intoxication.

Capital murder

Also known as first-degree murder in other states, capital murder occurs when a person commits murder under the following circumstances:

  • The victim is a police officer or fireman or was in the line of duty.
  • The murder is committed during the course of a kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, retaliation, arson, obstruction, or terroristic threat.
  • The murder is committed for payment or under the agreement of payment.
  • The murder is committed during an escape from a penal institution
  • The murder was committed against a prison employee by an inmate.
  • The murder was committed while incarcerated for murder or capital murder or while serving a life sentence for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated robbery.
  • More than one person is murdered during a single criminal episode.
  • The victim is under ten years of age.
  • The victim is murdered because they are a judge.

For a charge of capital murder, the judge must determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the act meets the criteria needed to pursue the steeper punishments. If there is reasonable doubt, then the charge may be of a lesser homicide charge. Defenses against capital murder include lack of intent or knowledge, insanity, intoxication, or murder in self-defense.

How are homicide charges punished in Texas?

Criminally negligent homicide – state jail felony, $10,000 fine, confinement in a state jail for not more than two years or less than 180 days

Manslaughter – second-degree felony, $10,000 fine, imprisonment for not more than 20 years or less than two years

Murder – first-degree felony, $10,000 fine, imprisonment of not more than 99 years or less than five years

Capital murder – capital felony, life in prison, or death penalty

Would I Benefit From a Lawyer?

Murder and homicide charges are among the harshest and most severely punished in Texas. Murder is also one of the only crimes in Texas that can receive the death penalty as a possible judgment. You need a lawyer who knows the ends and outs of Texas law to help you win your life back. Your side of the story matters. Call us today at 832-400-4133 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation!

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