Texas Law on Murder and Homicide: 101

November 19, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

jeremy@texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

A person causing the death of another can be prosecuted in a number of different ways with vastly different punishment ranges in Texas – though they are all felonies in one form or another.

Murder and homicide are legally very similar to assault the main difference where the result of defendant’s actions are death instead of injury.

First Year Law School on Murder

In first year law school criminal law they teach to follow the “mens rea” which is latin for mental state when it comes to murder or homicide.  Premeditation (or lack of pre-meditation) is the single biggest factor in how murder is prosecuted.

The general provision for Texas Criminal Homicide is simple enough though the deeper you get into Texas murder law the more complex it becomes.

Tex.Pen.C. 19.01 TYPES OF CRIMINAL HOMICIDE

(a) A person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.

(b) Criminal homicide is murder, capital murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide.

Murder

Murder is committed where someone knowingly or intentionally causes the death of an individual under Tex.Pen.C. 19.02(b).

Sounds legally simple enough but remember to follow the “mens rea.”  If there is “sudden passion” which resulted in the homicide then it carries a lesser punishment.  Tex.Pen.C. 19.02(c).

Also there is a concept called “felony murder” which means if you are committing a felony (like robbing a bank or engaging in a car chase) and someone dies – it’s murder as well.  Tex.Pen.C. 19.02(b)(3).

Capital Murder

Capital murder is murder plus an aggravating factor.  See Tex.Pen.C 19.03 for a full list but it generally includes:

  • The murder of a public servant such as peace officer or firefighter;
  • Murder as a part of another felony act such as kidnapping, burglary or sexual assault;
  • Murder for hire/ solicitation;
  • Murder of a child.

Capital Murder can either be punished by death in certain instances or by automatic life without parole.

Manslaughter

Manslaughter is committed where the person recklessly causes the death of another.  It can often be vehicular in nature.  It can also often involve intoxication.  Manslaughter is a 2nd degree felony punishable by 2-20 years of prison.

Reckless is where a person “…is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk.”  Tex.Pen.C. 6.03(c).

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Where criminal negligence causes a persons death – this statute can be applicable.  This is known as a “state jail felony” punishable between 180 days and 2 years of prison.

Criminal negligence is basically when a person “…ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur.”  Tex.Pen.C. 6.03(d).  It can often be vehicular in nature too.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He has been designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.

 

 


Defending Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse

October 15, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

texasdefensefirm.com

No one anywhere approves of sexual abuse of children and no one anywhere approves of destroying the lives of the innocent.  The clash of these two core values in the courtroom are not for weak or timid lawyers.

The Deck is Stacked Against You

I’ve got bad news.  If you are being questioned about child sexual abuse charges — the police, CPS, or Children’s Advocacy Center very likely think you are a child predator even though they may not tell you directly.

The legislature has given law enforcement more than enough ammunition to destroy the lives of those accused of child sexual abuse.  If you think you are being accused of such charges you must contact an attorney immediately.

What Makes Being Charged with these Crimes So Severe?

Here are some of the obvious:

(1) The Harshness of the Penalties.  Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child carries a penalty of 5-99 years in prison.  If the victim is under 6, then it is 25-years to life with no parole.  Indecency with a Child can be either 2-10 years of prison or 2-20 years of prison based on the elements. Continual Sexual Abuse of a Child carries a 25-life sentence with no parole.

(2) The Destruction of a Family.  Many sexual abuse cases involve family members or close family friends.  Allegations often cause family members to take sides against one another.  These cases can be contentious as you can guess so it stands to reason many wounds never heal regardless of the outcome.

(3) The Stigma.  The label, stigma and shame of being a sex offender is obvious — if the first two consequences weren’t enough.  Whereas a theft charge, drug charge or even a robbery charge might allow someone to still fit into society as a productive member after their debt is paid — someone labeled as a sex offender has a much bigger (if not impossible) challenge to rebuild their life.

What Your Lawyer Must Be Able to Do

They must show the jury destroying the life of an innocent person is intolerable even if it is being done with the best of intentions.  To accomplish this, your attorney must know the facts of the case better than the prosecutor, understand the law better than the prosecutor, and have a skilled plan of attack.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about your case or any situation you should contact an attorney directly.  Contacting the attorney through this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Additionally comments, posts, or communications through this blog are not confidential.


Important Lessons from the Zimmerman Verdict and Interactive Poll

July 15, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t watch much of the trial — or the hoards of legal analysts who told us what to think.  So you won’t be getting red-hot opinions about how smart/stupid the jury was here.

I see merit in virtually every argument I’ve read online from friends and family in social media or even from editorials on TV or in the newspaper.  George Zimmerman may have gotten away with cold-blooded murder.  Then again maybe he was defending himself from an attacker.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  I just know we did our best to figure it all out.

The strong reaction I see everywhere — going both directions — reminds me of simple truisms about why the framer’s of the constitution gave us the rights we have.

Humans are biased.  Others need protection from our biases because when we put our heads together in big numbers we can be very dangerous to people we aren’t interested in hearing from.

Don’t think so?  I guess advertising doesn’t work on you… it just works on me?

Our rights guaranteed by the framers of the Constitution are designed to combat our biases, prejudices, and knee-jerk reactions we would naturally have in protecting our families and communities in favor of protecting individuals.

The presumption of innocence holds jurors must presume an accused person as innocent as they would a neighbor or even the judge.

The accused has the right to remain silent because strapping someone in a chair and launching loaded questions at them is a tactic of 3rd world justice.

The burden of proof never shifts to the accused.  It’s impossible to prove you’re innocent of a traffic ticket when you think about it.  Especially if you’re dealing with a jury or judge whose default is to trust the policeman who wrote you the citation.

But here’s where the rubber meets the road — these rights are hollow unless we understand why we have them and they’re hollow if we only give them lip service.

The aftermath of this verdict has been ugly arguments and protest.  Anytime we debate our system of justice, though, it’s a healthy exercise as long as it leads to greater understanding instead of disillusionment.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about this situation or any other, you should contact an attorney directly

 

 


How Can I Defend Someone If I Know They’re Guilty?

June 18, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

If you practice criminal defense you are invariably asked questions by people who simply don’t understand what it is you do.  The questions don’t bother me.  We are all naturally programmed to think in terms of good and evil.  We all view ourselves on the side of good and can’t understand how anyone can cross the imaginary boundary we’ve established in our mind.

1.  How Can You Possibly Defend Someone You Know is Guilty?

When I defend a guilty person, I defend everyone.  If I can make it difficult for a guilty person to be treated unfairly then I’m making it extremely difficult for an innocent person to be treated unfairly.

Besides, not everyone is guilty.

2.  What This Person Did Was Awful.  How Can You Defend Him?

I don’t defend crime or criminal acts.  I defend human beings and their rights.

I defend people whose imperfection is making bad choices and/or hurting people from people whose imperfection is being judgmental.

Another fun way I respond to either of these questions is, “Well let’s just lop their hand off like they do in other parts of the world.”

That usually drives the point home.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about this or any other situation you should contact an attorney directly.