What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Houston, TX

05 Sep 2022
Greco Neyland, PC

There are several types of homicide charges in Texas. Murder and manslaughter aren’t the only differences you need to worry about.

If your alleged actions led to the death of another human being, you could be charged with:

  • 1st Degree Murder
  • 2nd Degree Murder
  • Capital Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Intoxication Manslaughter
  • Criminally negligent homicide

Here’s what you need to know.

1st Degree Murder

You’ll be charged with murder if law enforcement is asserting not only that your actions led to the death of another person, but you knew that they would. Note that the standard is not “premeditation,” only that you knew what you were doing would lead the other person to die.

2nd Degree Murder

This is a “crime of passion” murder. To get a 1st degree charge dropped to a 2nd degree charge you’d have to prove that you were gripped by a sudden passion that momentarily robbed you of your senses and caused you to act in a sort of animal rage. This is known as voluntary manslaughter in other states.

Capital Murder

You’ll be charged with capital murder if the victim was:

  • A fire fighter
  • An on-duty police officer
  • Under the age of ten
  • There were multiple victims
  • The victim was a prison guard or other prison employee
  • The murder occurred while committing another felony such as robbery or sexual assault
  • Money changed hand in order for the crime to take place
  • The victim was a judge

Here is an example of a recent capital murder case in Texas.

Capital murders are punishable by death via lethal injection.


You can be charged with manslaughter when your reckless or negligent actions cause the death of another person. You might not have meant to kill them, but death was still the result. An accidental shooting might count as a manslaughter, as might a death that occurred as the result of a shoving match where you pushed the other person a little too hard, causing them to fall and take a fatal head wound.

Intoxication Manslaughter

This is the charge that is used when alcohol or drug use causes you to take an action that results in a death. This is the most common charge for people who kill someone while committing a DUI or DWI.

Criminal Negligence

Negligence is usually handled as a civil crime: a wrongful death suit that is dealt with via lawsuit. Yet there are times when someone dies as the result of negligence that is so egregious that the courts reserve the right to charge the negligent act as a crime. When this happens, criminal negligence may be the charge. This is the least-severe homicide charge, but it’s rarely used.


If the evidence shows that your actions did lead to the death of another person then showing the intent behind the crime can at least help us potentially work out a plea bargain where you are charged with a lesser crime (manslaughter, as opposed to murder, for example). If there was no intent to commit an illegal act then you may be eligible for a lighter sentence.

Justifiable homicide is also a potential defense, if the circumstances of the homicide make you eligible to use such a defense. For example, if you kill a person who attacked you first then you might be able to get acquitted.

Get Help Today

Obviously, homicide is one of the most serious crimes you or a loved one could ever be charged with. These charges could lead to capital punishment or a life sentence, or decades in prison. Some of those years may even be served before your case ever goes to trial, unless you can get out on bail.

Get the best criminal law representation you can get by reaching out to our office today. Our team can help.

See also:

Why Houston, TX Defense Lawyers Accept Guilty Clients

5 Mistakes You Need to Avoid in Your Houston, TX Criminal Case

How Do Plea Bargains Work in Houston, TX

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