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Homicide Charges: What You Need To Know

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What is a ‘homicide charge?’

Homicide is the legal term for the killing of one individual by another individual.

Homicide charges vary based on the context of the crime. Texas recognizes four main categories of homicide charges.


A murder charge is given when an individual is accused of intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another human. Someone can also be charged with murder when they intend to cause serious bodily injury to a person, and act in a clearly dangerous way that causes the death of that person. Someone can even be charged with murder if they act in a clearly dangerous way that causes death while committing a felony or while running away from the scene where they committed (or tried to commit) a felony.

Murder is a first-degree felony. The punishment for a first-degree felony in Texas can be between five to 99 years in prison or a life sentence, plus up to a $10,000 fine. However, a murder charge may be reduced to second-degree felony if the accused can prove that the homicide was committed under the immediate influence of “sudden passion,” uncontrollable and justifiable passion, or rage due to provocation.

Capital Murder

Capital murder is considered a more serious charge than murder due to the heinous circumstances of the crime.

Some examples of crimes that warrant capital murder charges are:

  • Killing a police officer
  • An inmate killing a prison guard
  • Murder committed for payment
  • If the murder is committed intentionally while committing or trying to commit certain serious crimes, like kidnapping or arson
  • The murder of someone under ten years old

In Texas, the minimum sentence for capital murder is life in prison without parole. Texas authorizes the use of the death penalty in capital murder cases.


A person commits manslaughter when one individual kills another due to reckless behavior. Manslaughter is considered a less severe homicide charge than murder. While some states separate voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, Texas does not.

Vehicular manslaughter occurs when someone recklessly operates a motor vehicle, leading to the death of another individual. However, the Texas Penal Code simply classifies this as manslaughter, and regardless of whether a vehicle is involved, manslaughter is classified as a second-degree felony. The punishment can range from two to 20 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

A person is criminally negligent when they should be aware of a substantial, unjustifiable risk about their circumstances, or that certain results will occur. And a person commits criminally negligent homicide when the disregard of that risk causes the death of someone else. A key aspect of criminally negligent homicide is that the crime did not occur due to malice, but due to the glaring failure to act with the care expected of an ordinary person in the same situation. An example of this would be someone shooting a gun wildly into the air, and that shooting kills someone.

Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony, so convictions can result in 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

What to do if you are facing homicide charges

Homicide charges are incredibly serious. If you are facing any of the charges listed above, it is imperative that you obtain experienced legal representation.

A skilled defense attorney can work on your behalf to fight for you at trial or negotiate for a plea bargain, a lesser charge, or reduced sentencing. They can also help defend you by presenting an argument for self-defense, lack of intent, and more.

Texas is known to be tough on crime, and it is vital to have strong legal counsel by your side. Contact Palmer Perlstein today for a free consultation.