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Charles T. Ganz

Manslaughter: How viable is a ‘heat of passion’ defense?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2023 | Manslaughter Defense

Simply put, manslaughter is murder committed without intent. It is a second-degree felony in Texas, and if convicted, you risk a jail term of up to 20 years, a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.

Among the defenses you can raise if you are charged with manslaughter is that you acted impulsively due to a sudden emotional outburst of emotions provoked by a particular circumstance. In other words, you committed the murder in the ‘heat of passion’. 

Would a reasonable person have acted in a similar way?

A ‘heat of passion’ defense is subjective because it relies heavily on the defendant’s emotional state of mind during the commission of the crime. You must show that you were provoked by a sudden and intense emotional response triggered by the victim’s actions.

The emotional provocation must be of such a degree that a reasonable person would have reacted in a similar way. Furthermore, you must also show that you did not have sufficient time to cool down and committed the crime while still in a state of emotional turmoil.

For instance, if a spouse walks in on their partner in bed with another person and reacts violently, they may be able to use the ‘heat of passion’ defense. However, if they plan and execute the murder days later, they cannot use the defense.

The circumstances of your case matter

The practicality of using a ‘heat of passion’ defense in manslaughter charges depends on several factors, such as the strength of the evidence presented and the subjective interpretation of the judge and jury.

Therefore, it is best to seek a qualified and informed assessment of the facts of your case to help determine the best defense that would increase your chances of a desirable verdict.