Are you facing murder or manslaughter charges in the Houston area?

Murder, also referred to as “criminal homicide,” is one of the most serious criminal charges a person can face. In Texas, a person commits criminal homicide if they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence cause the death of a person.

Consequences of Murder or Manslaughter

Under Texas law there are four types of criminal homicide: murder, capital murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

  • Murder. Murder is a first-degree felony that occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of a person or causes intentional bodily harm that results in a person’s death. Murder may also occur when a person dies during the commission of a felony crime. A murder conviction is punishable by five to 99 years in prison, or life in prison, and up to $10,000 in fines.
  • Capital murder. Capital murder is a capital felony that occurs when a person murders a peace officer or firefighter, murders multiple people during the same “transaction,” or murders a child under 10 years old. Capital murder also occurs when a person intentionally kills someone during the commission of certain crimes like kidnapping, burglary or aggravated sexual assault. A capital murder conviction can result in life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty.
  • Manslaughter. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony that occurs when a person recklessly causes the death of another person. Generally, the person is engaged in a dangerous activity and they are aware of the risks at the time, but they decide to engage in the dangerous activity despite the risks. Unlike murder, there is no premeditation and the penalties are less severe. Punishment may include between two and 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
  • Criminally negligent homicide. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony that occurs when a person causes the death of a person by criminal negligence. In other words, a person fails to take precautions or grossly deviates from what an ordinary person would do. This crime is punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

Defense Strategies

A murder or manslaughter charge is serious and carries significant penalties and developing an effective defense strategy requires careful consideration of the facts of each case. No two cases are alike, so a skilled Houston homicide attorney will conduct a thorough review of the individual factors and any extenuating circumstances of your case to develop a solid defense plan. Possible defenses to murder or manslaughter may include:

  • Self-defense. If you took actions to defend yourself out of fear for your life, and your actions caused the death of another person, we may be able to argue that you acted out of self-defense. If successful, a self-defense argument can result in a not-guilty decision.
  • Mental impairment. Criminal homicide charges require some degree of premeditation or some awareness of situational factors. If a person suffers from a mental impairment such that they are unable to know the difference between right and wrong, we may be able to use the “insanity” defense. This is a very nuanced defense, but when used successfully it can reduce a defendant’s penalties or eliminate them.
  • Heat of passion. The “heat of passion” or “sudden passion” defense may be used to argue that a homicide was the result of an extremely emotional situation, like extreme fear or rage. If this defense applies in your case, we would argue that you were overcome by emotion due to certain circumstances that rendered you incapable of acting rationally. When used successfully at the time of sentencing, this defense can reduce a possible life sentence to a sentence of two to 20 years (a second-degree felony).
  • Legitimate innocence. We may also convince the prosecutor or jury that you did not commit the acts in question using an established alibi or calling the prosecution’s evidence into question.

Keep in mind that these defenses are merely examples and may not apply in all cases. A skilled murder defense attorney will be better suited to analyze your case and work to craft a defense strategy specific to your case.

Why Do You Need a Defense Lawyer?

If you are in Harris County or surrounding counties such as Fort Bend, Montgomery, or Galveston County and have been charged with murder or manslaughter, you will need an experienced and successful criminal defense lawyer like Nathaniel Pitoniak to provide you with legal advice and representation in a Texas court of law. As a former prosecutor with over ten years in practice, he knows how these cases are made and how to present a successful defense. Call Nathaniel Pitoniak at the Pitoniak Law Firm at (832) 648-4260 for a free consultation today.