What’s the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Texas? Explained by Dallas Violent Crimes Defense Lawyer

What’s the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Texas?

Taking the life of another person is one of the most serious crimes possible, and the penalties for committing such crimes are just as severe. If you are facing a murder charge, it’s normal to feel a range of emotions, including fear and uncertainty about the future.

This is why it’s important to act quickly and to contact an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer if you are facing any kind of homicide charge.

Every case is different and there may be mitigating factors in your case that could help reduce the severity of the charges against you or dismiss them altogether. You will need a defense lawyer in your corner who knows how to protect your freedom because your future will depend on it. This is where the experience of the criminal defense team at Broden & Mickelsen, LLP can be the difference between a reduced sentence or a life in prison.

Dallas Best Violent Crimes Defense Lawyers – Broden & Mickelsen, LLP

Tel: (214) 720-9552

4 Types of Murder Under Texas Law

Because states charge murder in different ways, it can be confusing trying to understand what type of charges you’re facing in a murder case.

Under Texas law, criminal homicides are broken down into four different types of charges. These can be classified as murder, capital murder, criminally negligent homicide, and manslaughter.

  • Murder – When someone is charged with murder under Texas law, prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to prove that the person took another individual’s life knowingly and intentionally. This is a felony charge. “Sudden Passion” is mitigation offered in the punishment phase after a murder conviction. If the jury finds it, the maximum sentence is 20 years.
  •  Capital Murder – An individual can be charged with capital murder under a variety of specific circumstances. For example, it’s a capital murder crime to take the life of a police officer. It’s also capital murder if you kill someone during a burglary or sexual assault.
  • Criminally Negligent Homicide – Under Texas law, criminally negligent homicide is a state felony charge. The easiest way to understand when criminally negligent homicide may apply to a case is by using the example of accidental death. For example, take the case of an employee who skips safety procedures and places heavy items on the top shelf of a store. If the items shift and fall on a customer and it results in the customer’s death, it could be an example of criminally negligent homicide. In this example, the employee knew they weren’t supposed to put heavy items on the top shelf and negligently ignored safety protocols. In these cases, the person facing charges never intended for the victim to die. However, it is the negligent behavior on their part that led to the victim’s death.
  • Manslaughter – Manslaughter is a reckless disregard of the danger. A common example of manslaughter is someone playing a game of chicken in the car and the other driver ends up dead.
    It’s also worth noting that, similar to criminally negligent homicide, a person charged with manslaughter in Texas is charged with committing a violent crime that lacks premeditation.

In situations where a prosecutor feels like they lack the evidence needed to show intent beyond a reasonable doubt in a case, they will sometimes bring a manslaughter charge rather than a murder charge.

Murder vs. Capital Murder in Texas

In certain states, the law distinguishes first-degree murder from second-degree murder, with first-degree murder being a more serious charge.

However, Texas law breaks murder charges down even further into murder and capital murder, with capital murder being the most serious charge under Texas law. Capital murder is one that takes place with aggravating factors, such as the killing of a police officer or a death that occurs while the individual is engaged in another type of crime.

When facing charges of capital murder, an individual is being accused of carrying out a homicide under circumstances consistent with charges of capital murder and can lead to a person being sentenced to death under Texas law. This is the difference between murder or elevating the crime to capital murder.

Most importantly, if an individual is convicted of capital murder it’s possible they will be facing the death penalty at sentencing. However, they can also be sentenced to life in prison without parole, along with a maximum fine of $10,000.

Experienced Dallas Violent Crimes Defense Lawyer

No matter what type of homicide charges a person is facing, it’s important to work with a Dallas violent crimes defense lawyer who regularly handles complex cases, such as homicide cases.

You can be certain that a prosecutor’s main goal is to obtain a conviction. They have every incentive to bring the most serious charges possible. When your future and freedom are on the line, you owe it to yourself to work with the experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers for homicide defense at Broden & Mickelsen, LLP.

Dallas Violent Crimes Defense Lawyers
Broden & Mickelsen, LLP
Tel: (214) 720-9552


Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case.


  1. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.19.htm
  2. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.12.htm

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.