Any incident that involves the death of someone else can often lead to a long and difficult legal battle. Texas doesn’t officially use the term “involuntary manslaughter” or even “voluntary manslaughter.” Instead, Texas manslaughter laws combine these two terms into a single charge with penalties that can be enhanced under certain circumstances. Being responsible for someone else’s death can be a terrible thing to live with. But, if it’s an accident, it can be even worse. Accidentally killing someone won’t always lead to a manslaughter charge. In fact, there’s a difference between an accidental killing and manslaughter in Texas.
Elements of Manslaughter in Texas
To be convicted of a Texas manslaughter charge, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you recklessly caused someone else’s death. There is no premeditation requirement for this crime, and it doesn’t have to be committed with knowledge or intent. The only requirement for a Texas manslaughter conviction is recklessness.
While the definition of manslaughter in Texas is broad, there are specific types of manslaughter charges that are treated separately. Car accidents happen every single day in the State of Texas. Occasionally, these accidents can lead to the death or serious bodily injury of someone else. Intoxication manslaughter deals with the death of someone else because the defendant was intoxicated, while vehicular manslaughter deals with the death of someone else while the defendant was operating a vehicle or vessel.
A manslaughter charge in Texas is different than murder, which is divided based on the severity of the crime (along with other circumstances surrounding it). To be charged with murder, you must have “knowingly and willingly’ caused the death of someone else. The biggest distinction between the two is based on the perpetrator’s intent. If you planned to cause the death or bodily injury of someone else (or if you planned to commit a felony other than manslaughter that resulted in someone else’s death), you can be charged with murder.
Penalties for Manslaughter in Texas
According to Texas Law, a manslaughter charge is considered to be a second-degree felony. The same kind of penalty will apply for vehicular manslaughter if it’s sought under the same statutes listed in the Texas Penal Code or the Texas Transportation Code. According to Section 12.33 of the Texas Penal Code, the consequences for a manslaughter conviction can include:
- A fine of up to $10,000.
- A prison sentence between 2 and 20 years.
Be sure to speak to a qualified attorney for more information.
Possible Defenses for a Texas Manslaughter Charge
A good defense that can help you beat a Texas manslaughter charge will depend on the type of attorney you hire. You need to work with an attorney with extensive trial experience, is accepted by the criminal legal community, and has gotten positive client testimonials. Here are some of the defenses that can be used against a manslaughter charge in the State of Texas:
- Insanity — You admit that you committed the offense, but you argue that you’re not criminally responsible because of insanity. For this defense to work, you must have evidence that you have a “mental disease or defect” that made you incapable of knowing that what you did was wrong. You must show that you were in an “extreme delusional state” that caused you to misperceive the nature of your actions or that you believed that your actions were obeying instead of violating the laws of society.
- Self-Defense — This can be a viable defense against manslaughter in Texas and is known as the “Stand Your Ground Law.” If you’re a homeowner, you’re not obligated to retreat before you can use deadly force against someone in the act of self-defense. But, there are limits to this type of defense. You must be at a place legally (whether it’s a home, a place of business, or a car), you must not have provoked the confrontation, and you must reasonably be afraid for your life.
- Heat of Passion — You can use this defense if your response was motivated by an immediate and intense emotion. This is often used to convince a jury that you acted the way you did because you were in a state of extreme rage or fear, but the key to this defense is in the presence of adequate provocation. You must be in a situation where a reasonable person would naturally respond in “the passion of the moment.” The incident must have occurred almost immediately without any time to cool off. You must not have provoked the situation, and you must not have previously attempted or conspired to commit the same action.
If you’re facing a manslaughter charge and are looking for a criminal defense attorney in Corpus Christi, be sure to reach out to Gale Law Group.