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Texas Murder Laws

Individuals are often confused by the difference between murder and homicide under Texas law. Murder is a subset, or type of homicide, which is an overarching general description for an unlawful killing.

Homicide is defined as an intentional, knowing, reckless, or negligent cause of death. Murder, on the other hand, specifies that further, and is an intentional killing or causing someone’s death with the knowledge that your actions will cause death.

Thus, while murder is a type of homicide, not all homicides are murders. Involuntary manslaughter or vehicular homicide, are also considered “homicides” but such offenses are not murder.

The distinction between homicide and murder becomes important when an individual is facing murder charges and his or her intent becomes the main issue in the case.  Texas Penal Code Chapter 19 provides the definition for both, homicide and murder under Texas law.

Georgetown Criminal Defense Lawyer for Murder Charges

If you or someone you know is, unfortunately, under investigation for murder, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney Michael J. Price has been representing Texas defendants throughout the courtrooms in Williamson County, Texas for decades and understands how to defend those charged with terroristic threats.

Law Office of Price & Wiggins, P.C. represents clients facing Texas criminal charges in Bell County, Milam County, Lee County, Williamson County, Bastrop County, Travis County, and Burnet County in Texas.

Call (512) 354-1880 now to schedule a one-on-one with Attorney Michael J. Price to learn more about getting murder charges reduced or completely dropped.

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Texas Murder Information Center

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Murder Charges under Texas Law

Under Texas Penal Code § 19.02, an individual commits murder if he or she does any of the following:

  • The alleged offender knowingly or intentionally causes the death of an individual;
  • The alleged offender intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act that is clearly dangerous to human life, of which causes an individual’s death; or
  • The alleged offender commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and
    • in the course of; or
    • in furtherance of the commission or attempt; or
    • in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, the alleged offender commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes an individual’s death.

Murder is punishable as a first-degree felony offense under Texas law. With that said , first-degree murder charges may be reduced based on certain negating circumstances surrounding an offense.

A first-degree felony is punishable by up to life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
A second-degree felony is punishable by up to twenty (20) years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

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Negating Circumstances in Murder Charges

Generally, murder is charges as a first-degree felony offense. An alleged offender, however, may raise the issue of whether he or she caused the victim’s death as a result of sudden passion arising from adequate cause.

According to Texas Penal Code § 19.02, adequate cause is defined as a cause that would commonly produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.

Thus, the Texas murder statute contemplates murder done in the “heat of passion.” Some examples of “heat of passion” crimes have included:

  • witnesses a spouse in bed with another lover;
  • witnesses one’s children being abused;
  • witnessing a loved one being hurt;

While the Statute does take into account “heat of passion” murder, such that it can reduce the punishment, there is also a limit on what may be considered “in the heat of passion.”

In order to satisfy the adequate cause requirement of the Section 19.02, the passion must be considered “sudden passion.” Sudden passion is defined as passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual who was killed or another acting with the person killed, which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.

Given that, the statute makes clear that a person must be reacting to sudden provocation, thus lying in wait or actions done after a “cooling period” will not be enough to reduce first-degree murder charges.

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Capital Murder

Murder may also be categorized based on even more heinous circumstance. Such murder charges are classified as capital murder, and are the most serious homicide charges in Texas.

There are multiple crimes that could fall under the category of capital murder under Texas law. For example, if a person knowingly murders a peace officer or firefighter, or commits a murder for hire, he or she could be charged with capital murder.

In addition, an individual may be charged with capital murder if, the accused murders more than one person during the same criminal transaction or pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct. Lastly, murdering an individual under the age of ten can also subject an accused to capital murder charges.

Capital murder charges are punishable by a capital felony.  According to Texas law, an individual adjudged guilty of a capital felony in which the State seeks the death penalty, he or she shall be punished by life without parole.

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Felony Murder

Yet another category of murder under Texas law includes felony murder. Felony murder describes an act is done in the course of committing another felony, other than manslaughter, that causes an individual’s death.

Felony murder is outlined in Tex. Pen. Code § 19.02(b)(3).  A person be convicted of felony murder if he or she intentionally commits murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit any of the following felony offenses:

  • Terroristic Threat
  • Burglary
  • Obstruction or Retaliation
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping 

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Additional Resources

Survivor Resources – Survivor resources is a non-profit, private organization dedicated to providing immediate and long-term emotional support to those who have been affected by the unexpected death of a family member or loved one through homicide, suicide or accident.

National Archive of Criminal Justice Data – Homicide data resource Guide designed to provide easy access to data collections concerning murder, capital murder, and other homicide offense. The Guide provides quick and easy links to multiple studies and resources available for online data analysis for murder throughout the U.S.A.

Texas Penal Code § 19.02 – Visit the Texas Legislature website for the full statutory disposition of criminal homicide under Texas law. The link includes the statutory language of murder, including capital murder, and other homicide offenses such as manslaughter and negligent homicide.

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Find an Experienced Murder Defense Attorney in Williamson County

If you or someone you know has been accused of murder, homicide, or any other violent crime in Georgetown, Texas, do not hesitate to contact us to have experienced lawyers on your side.

Law Office of Price & Wiggins, P.C. represents clients facing Texas criminal charges in Bell County, Milam County, Lee County, Williamson County, Bastrop County, Travis County, and Burnet County in Texas.

Call (512) 354-1880 now to schedule a one-on-one with Attorney Michael J. Price to learn more about getting murder charges reduced or completely dropped.

This article was last updated on Friday, September 15, 2017.


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