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Every murder charge in Texas starts out as a first-degree felony

Texas takes the killing of another person seriously. For this reason, if you face charges associated with the death of another individual, prosecutors charge you with murder, which is a first-degree felony here.

It is the circumstances surrounding the death, and your part in it, that determine whether you face consequences associated with a first-degree felony, which results in fines up to $10,000 and incarceration between five and 99 years, or a second-degree felony, which results in fines up to $10,000 and a prison sentence between two and 20 years.

What must the state prove?

In order for a Texas court to convict you of murder, the prosecution must prove the following elements of the crime:

  • You attempted to commit, or committed, a felony and acted in a way that obviously endangered the life of the decedent and led to his or her death. This does not apply if prosecutors accuse you of manslaughter, which constitutes a different offense, resulting in the death of someone else.
  • You knowingly and intentionally caused the other person's death.
  • You intended to cause serious bodily harm to the victim and acted in a manner that endangered and ended his or her life.

If the evidence does not support these elements, then the court may reduce or dismiss the charges, depending on the circumstances.

What types of defenses to murder exist?

As you prepare your defense to the charges, you may consider whether any of the following defenses apply to your case:

  • Intent is an important part of the crime's elements. If you did not intend for the person to die, the court needs proof of this.
  • If fear, rage, terror or some other strong emotion caused you to act "in the heat of passion," prosecutors may not secure a conviction for murder as a first-degree felony.
  • If you somehow did not know that you killed the decedent, then you could not have the requisite intent needed to prove the crime.
  • You may have acted in self-defense, which is your right. If the evidence bears this out, you may avoid a murder conviction.
  • If you were dealing with intoxication at the time the death occurred, the prosecution will probably fail to establish intent.

Furthermore, legal justifications for killing someone do exist. If your situation falls into one of those definitions, you may not face charges, or at least not face conviction. Your life, your freedom and your future are on the line if you face charges for murder here in Texas. It would be in your best interests to utilize the legal resources at your disposal.

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John M. Petruzzi, Attorney at Law
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Houston, Texas 77056

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