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Manslaughter Charges in Texas

by | May 30, 2022 | Criminal Defense

When an individual kills another person, they have committed homicide. However, sometimes, the alleged offender may not have intended to kill the person, which is why there are different types of homicide. In Texas, there are multiple types of criminal homicide: murder, capital murder, criminally negligent homicide, and manslaughter. In this article, we will outline the legal definition of manslaughter as well as the potential consequences of a conviction.

Texas Manslaughter

According to Texas Penal Code § 19.04, manslaughter occurs when a person recklessly causes the death of another person. An alleged offender can be charged with a second-degree felony, which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for life or a term of two to twenty years.

While every case is unique, potential defenses against the crime of manslaughter are:

  • Self-defense. You can argue that you were trying to protect yourself, others around you, or your property. However, you will need to prove that you or others were at risk of serious injury or death and that you acted in proportion to the threat.
  • Insanity. If you did not understand the illegality or consequences of your actions, it can be argued and proven that you should not be imprisoned but rather sent to a mental institution. However, you (or your attorney) will need to prove that you suffer from a mental illness or intellectual disability.
  • Innocence. You can argue that have been wrongly accused and charged and that this is a case of mistaken identity.
  • Constitutional violations. Irrespective of whether you are guilty, your constitutional rights should not be violated. If police illegally conducted a search6, coerced a confession, denied your right to a lawyer, or violated your rights in any way, your attorney can work to draft a plea deal, get the charges dismissed, or have evidence removed.

Manslaughter vs. Criminally Negligent Homicide in Texas

The key difference between criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter is whether the person’s death was caused by recklessness or criminal negligence. As defined by Texas Penal Code § 6.03, a person acts:

  • Recklessly when they are aware of or should be aware of how dangerous their conduct is or how their behavior could result in dangerous circumstances and disregards the known risks of their action.
  • Criminally negligent when they should be aware of the reasonable and unjustifiable risks that their conduct or the results of their conduct could have yet they are grossly negligent and still behave negligently.

While manslaughter involves a death that results from reckless actions, criminally negligent homicide involves a death that results from criminal negligence. If you can prove that you were negligent and not reckless, that can get your charges reduced as criminally negligent homicide is considered a state jail felony.

Vehicular Manslaughter in Texas

Texas law does not clearly define vehicular manslaughter. However, you can apply Texas Penal Code § 19.04, and if a person operating a vehicle behaves recklessly and kills someone, that would be considered manslaughter. It is also important to note that it is illegal to participate in races or competitions as this is a separate offense (Texas Transportation Code § 545.420).

Intoxication Manslaughter

Under Texas Penal Code § 49.08, you can be charged with a second-degree felony, intoxication manslaughter, if you take someone’s life while driving impaired. Specifically, intoxication manslaughter is defined as causing the death of another person (by accident or mistake) while operating a motor vehicle, watercraft, amusement park ride, or aircraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Get Legal Help

If you or a loved one have been charged with manslaughter in Texas, Attorney Peter Barrett is equipped to help you develop a solid and personalized defense strategy. Peter Barrett is known for being an advocate for clients and can work tirelessly to help you obtain the best possible results.

Schedule a case consultation by calling (214) 307-8667 or completing this online contact form.