Murder vs. Manslaughter: The Differences Under Texas Law

October 20th, 2016 | By | Posted in Uncategorized

The outline of a body at a Texas crime scene.A common misconception is that a homicide is always considered crime. By definition, a homicide is the killing of one person by another, or in other words, one human being dies as a result of another’s actions.

Some homicides are considered non-criminal, as in justified self-defense. Under the Texas penal code, citizens are granted the right to use deadly force to protect their own or another’s property, or to stop an aggravated kidnapping; murder; sexual assault; aggravated sexual assault; robbery; or aggravated robbery—all of which would be considered justifiable homicides.

Murder and manslaughter, on the other hand, are considered unlawful homicides. Both are serious felony crimes in Texas, and carry stiff penalties. If faced with charges for either of these crimes in Harris County or the surrounding area, it is important to retain a trustworthy, competent criminal defense attorney in Houston, TX who will protect your rights and guide you through a vast and intimidating legal process.

There are important differences between murder and manslaughter in the state of Texas, even though both are felony crimes. Listed below are the differences between the two.


To be convicted of manslaughter, a defendant must have recklessly caused the death of another person, without premeditation or the intent of killing the victim. There are two additional types of manslaughter:

  • Intoxication manslaughter means the defendant recklessly caused the death of another person as a result of being intoxicated.
  • Vehicular manslaughter means a defendant killed another human being as a result of reckless behavior while driving a vehicle.

Manslaughter is a second degree felony in Texas, and carries a potential sentence of between 2 and 20 years.

Murder and Capital Murder

A photo of hands in handcuffs.The intentional killing of another human being is murder. To be charged with murder, a defendant must have intended to cause serious bodily harm or death. Charges are filed based upon the severity and circumstances of the crime.

To be convicted of murder, a prosecutor must be able to prove:

  • That the defendant intentionally and knowingly caused the death of another person;
  • The defendant had intent to cause serious bodily injury, and committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life, and the act caused the death of another human being.
  • The defendant was committing a felony, and as a result, the act caused the death of a person.

Murder is a first degree felony, and carries a sentence of between 5 and 99 years.

However, for a capital murder charge, an additional stipulation must also apply, for example: the victim was an on-duty peace office or fireman; the victim was a child younger than 6 years of age; or, more than one person was murdered, to name just a few of those stipulations.

A person found guilty of capital murder in Texas can receive the death penalty or a life sentence in prison without parole.

If arrested for a serious crime, it is important to remember that you have the right to remain silent and not answer questions until legal representation is present. An experienced violent crimes attorney understands the legal system in Texas and will help you evaluate the facts and options of your case.

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