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Texas Law Guide to Manslaughter

In Texas, manslaughter is included in a set of crimes known as criminal homicide. It includes crimes such as murder, capital murder, and criminally negligent homicide. A person commits criminal homicide if he kills another person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence.

Texas Manslaughter

Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code defines the crime of manslaughter. Section 19.04 states that a person commits manslaughter if “he recklessly causes the death of an individual.” In order to be considered reckless, a person must be aware of the risk surrounding their conduct or the results that could occur, but consciously disregard that awareness. This crime does not require an element of premeditation, intent, or knowledge; it requires only that a person was reckless.

Texas does not differentiate between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter like most other states. However, Texas does provide a separate offense of “intoxication manslaughter” and “vehicular manslaughter” that each comes with its own set of definitions and penalties.

Vehicular Manslaughter

There is no specific statute in Texas law that defines vehicular manslaughter, but a person can still be charged through other statutes. By applying Section 19.04 to a situation involving a vehicle, a person can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner that leads to the death of another individual. The Texas Transportation Code, Section 545.401 also provides the means to charge a person with vehicular manslaughter.

In addition, section 545.420 states that if a person participates in a race, vehicle speed competition or contest, drag race, or other type of acceleration contest and recklessly causes the death of another individual they can also be charged with manslaughter.

Penalties for Manslaughter

Under Texas law, the punishment for manslaughter is a felony in the second degree. This penalty also applies for the crime of vehicular manslaughter if it is sought under the same statutes in the Texas Penal Code or the Texas Transportation Code. Under Section 12.33 of the Texas Penal Code, the consequences for a manslaughter conviction include:

  • Fine: up to $10,000
  • Prison sentence: between two and 20 years

Defenses to Manslaughter

There are defenses available to the crime of manslaughter. However, it is important to note that even if one of the defenses applies, a person can still be convicted of a lesser crime. The defenses available to the charges of manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter in Texas include:

  • Self defense
  • Insanity
  • Actual innocence