Criminal charges of manslaughter and homicide are both related to someone’s death. Though they are similar crimes in many ways, homicide and manslaughter are not the same actions. This is why they carry different levels of potential penalties under Texas’ criminal law.
One of the biggest differences between manslaughter and a murder or capital murder charge is intent. To prove that someone committed murder beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors in Texas must show that one of the following happened:
- The defendant intentionally or knowingly caused an individual’s death.
- The defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury and committed an act clearly dangerous to human life, resulting in the death of an individual.
- The defendant caused an individual’s death in the course of committing or attempting a felony (other than manslaughter).
As you can see, intent must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to convict for murder. But with manslaughter, intent is not an element of the crime. All that is required is proof that the defendant “recklessly” caused someone’s death.
Manslaughter charge for accidental gunshot
In a recent example, a Houston man was arrested on a manslaughter charge recently after another man died of a gunshot wound. Police say the man was in possession of a gun that accidentally discharged and hit the second man. So far, no evidence suggests that the defendant purposely shot the man, but police appear to be claiming that he was acting recklessly with the gun in some way.
Because of the lack of intent involved, manslaughter is a second-degree felony, with a prison sentence of two to 20 years. A first-degree felony like murder carries a potential sentence of up to 99 years. A capital murder conviction can result in the death penalty.
Defending your rights against manslaughter charges
Of course, you still need to take manslaughter charges very seriously. That includes protecting yourself with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.