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Of all of the crimes covered in any criminal code, those that deal with criminal homicide are the most serious in terms of punishments involved. If you or someone you love is facing such a charge, it could literally be a life-or-death situation if the most serious charge has been filed. As stressful and terrifying as this situation can be for anyone, fighting back with every legal option at your disposal has never been more important.
Our lawyers practice in state and federal courts throughout the country, as well as courts-martial worldwide. Using Texas law as an example, below you will find information regarding the types of criminal homicide charges available to prosecutors in Texas, the laws that define them, analysis of the statutory language, the penalties involved with each charge, and finally how you should proceed if you find yourself facing the possibility of prosecution for a criminal homicide charge. These laws are similar in all jurisdictions.
In the most general terms, there are four different types of criminal homicide that exist within the Texas statutes, in decreasing order of severity:
Criminally negligent homicide
The most commonly charged methods of committing capital murder are as follows:
A person commits capital murder if he or she intentionally or knowingly:
There are other conditions that could result in a charge of capital murder, but the distinction between this statute and that of murder deals directly with the possible penalty allowable upon a conviction. A person convicted of capital murder can be punished by imprisonment for life without parole or by death.
A person commits murder if he or she:
As can be seen, in the first two instances, a person must have the intent to kill someone or the intent to inflict serious bodily injury. Subsection (3) deals with what is commonly known as the Felony Murder Doctrine, whereby a person is guilty of murder if he or she kills someone by committing an act clearly dangerous to human life even if he or she did not intend to kill or cause serious bodily injury.
A person convicted of murder is guilty of a first degree felony, which means that he or she could face a prison term of 5 – 99 years, or life in prison.
An individual is guilty of manslaughter if he or she recklessly causes the death of another. A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances surrounding his conduct exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if someone is acting recklessly, prosecutors do not need to prove that the person acted with any specific intent to kill someone. A conviction for manslaughter is a second degree felony. This means that a prison term between 2 – 20 years could be adjudged.
A person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide if he or she causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence. A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances surrounding his conduct exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint. This offense is a state jail felony, which means that a term in a state jail of not less than 180 days but not more than 2 years could be adjudged.
If you or someone you love is facing this situation, you need to act now to preserve your rights and begin to prepare the best defense possible. Contact the criminal defense lawyers at the law firm of Zimmermann Lavine & Zimmermann, P.C. today to schedule an initial consultation.