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Texas Law Guide to Murder

In Texas, murder falls under the umbrella of criminal homicide. Also included in this group are manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. According to Texas law, a person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.

Texas Murder

Section 19.02 of the Texas Penal Code defines the crime of murder. Under the law, a person commits this offense if he “intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual, intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.”

Texas Capital Murder

Section 19.03 of the Texas Penal Code defines the crime of capital murder. Under the law, capital murder includes committing one of the offenses defined under the murder statute and does one or more of the following:

  • The person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in an official duty;
  • The person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat;
  • The person commits or solicits a murder for hire;
  • The person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
  • The person, while incarcerated murders another person;
  • The person murders more than one person;
  • The person murders a person aged ten years old or younger; or
  • The person murders another person involved in service with the judiciary.

Penalties for Murder

The penalties for murder and capital murder can be found in Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code. Under Section 12.32, the crime of murder is considered a felony in the first degree. This is punishable by the following:

  • Fine: up to $10,000
  • Prison sentence: between five and 99 years

Section 12.31 defines capital murder as a capital felony offense. If convicted of a capital felony, the options for punishment are life in prison or the death penalty. The minimum age in Texas that a person can receive the death penalty is seventeen years of age or older. When the death penalty is not sought in a capital felony crime, the options for punishment are as follows:

  • Life in prison (mandatory): if the person committed the crime when younger than 18 years of age
  • Life in prison without parole (mandatory): if the person committed the crime when 18 years of age or older

Defenses to Murder

There are defenses available to a person accused of murder or capital murder in Texas. It is important to note that providing a defense to murder does not preclude being found guilty of a lesser offense. The potential defenses to murder include:

  • Lack of intent
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Insanity
  • Intoxication
  • Self defense
  • “Heat of passion”