(512) 565-8844

New Braunfels Homicide Lawyer

<< Back to Practice Areas

Homicide – the intentional taking of the life of another – is prohibited by laws in all states. Texas law penalizes four main types of homicide:

  1. Murder
  2. Capital Murder
  3. Manslaughter
  4. Criminally Negligent Homicide

The precise punishment a particular criminal defendant will face depends on the circumstances under which the death occurred. The more deliberate and heinous the killing was, the more severe the punishment.

I Can Help

Contact me for a free case review if you are charged with homicide in Comal County or other Central Texas counties such as Hays County, Guadalupe County, Travis County, or Bexar County.

Murder

A defendant commits murder if another person is killed and:

  • The defendant intentionally or knowingly killed the individual;
  • The defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury and committed a dangerous act that resulted in the death of an individual; or
  • Commits or attempts to commit a felony other than manslaughter and, while attempting to commit or fleeing from the commission of that felony, commits a clearly dangerous act that kills the individual. 

This last bullet describes the “felony-murder” rule, which can apply, for example, where the defendant robbed a store and then struck and killed a pedestrian while speeding away from the crime scene.

Murder is punishable by five to 99 years in prison or life imprisonment.

Capital Murder

A capital murder occurs when a killing occurs under certain narrow conditions:

  • When the defendant kills a peace officer or fireman who was acting in the lawful discharge of official duty, and the defendant knew the person to be a peace officer or fireman;
  • When the murder occurs during the course of committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat;
  • When the murder is committed as a “murder-for-hire,”;
  • When more than one person is murdered, either as part of the same criminal act or according to a scheme of conduct or plan; or
  • When the defendant murders a child under six years of age.

The main difference between murder and capital murder pertains to the punishment. A defendant convicted of capital murder may be punished by either imprisonment for life or execution.

Manslaughter

Manslaughter occurs when the defendant kills another “recklessly.” “Recklessness” exists where there is a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a death will occur. The defendant must be aware of this risk but disregards the risk. The defendant’s act must represent a gross deviation from the standard of care an ordinary person would have exercised under the circumstances. Suppose someone shot a loaded gun at a crowd but did not aim at anyone in particular or above the group. If someone is shot and dies from the wound, the State could prosecute this person for manslaughter. Courts will examine what a “reasonable person” acting in the defendant’s situation would have known and understood.

Manslaughter is punishable by between two and 20 years in prison.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Criminally negligent homicide occurs when the defendant kills another due to “criminal negligence.” “Criminal negligence” exists where the defendant is unaware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm but, under the circumstances, should have been aware of the risk.

Suppose two friends are “playing guns” by aiming and pulling the triggers of guns the defendant believes are unloaded. The defendant is likely engaging in criminal negligence. Suppose the defendant’s gun is loaded and the other friend dies. In that case, the State can prosecute the defendant for criminally negligent homicide. Again, the court will examine what a “reasonable person” in the defendant’s situation would have understood and what they would be aware of.

Criminally negligent homicide can be punished by a state jail term of 180 days and two years.

Defenses to Homicide Charges

Defendants charged with homicide offenses might be justified in killing another person if they acted in self-defense or defense of another person. Generally, a person has the right to use force against an aggressor who is attacking the person, is committing or is threatening to commit certain crimes against the person, or who enter the person’s residence.

There are significant limitations to this right to self-defense:

  • The person must not be the aggressor in the confrontation. In other words, Person A cannot attack Person B and then claim self-defense when he kills Person B when Person B responds with violence (unless Person B responds with deadly force);
  • The person cannot claim self-defense where the other person only engaged in the verbal provocation. In other words, a defendant cannot punch or batter someone who hurls insults at the person.
  • The force used must be proportionate and reasonable under the circumstances. A person is not entitled to claim self-defense if they stab an attacker multiple times with a knife when the other person punches the person.
  • Deadly force is only authorized when deadly force is threatened against the person, when used to prevent the imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery, or when used against a person who unlawfully and with force enters your home, your vehicle, or your place of work.

The defendant must have a reasonable belief that the use of force – as well as the particular level of force used – is warranted and justified under the circumstances. The judge or jury looks at this objectively. Suppose a reasonable person in the same situation would not have felt imminently threatened or the use of deadly force was called for (for instance). In that case, the defendant may not escape criminal liability by claiming self-defense. It is immaterial what the defendant believed.

A defendant is also justified in using deadly force when used in defense of a third person when:

  • The defendant reasonably believes the third person would be justified in using self-defense; and
  • The defendant reasonably believes their immediate intervention is needed to protect the third person.

Again, the court or jury will judge the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions on an “objective, reasonable person” standard. Suppose a reasonable person would not have had the defendant’s beliefs in the same circumstances. In that case, this defense will not justify a homicide – regardless of the defendant’s subjective beliefs.

I Can Help

Contact me for a free case review if you are charged with homicide in Comal County or other Central Texas counties such as Hays County, Guadalupe County, Travis County, or Bexar County.

Need Help With Your Case?