Arrested for Murder in Houston?
Why Hiring An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Is Crucial
Are you currently in a situation where you are
facing criminal charges for Murder? Houston
Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles
Johnson represents clients charged with
Homicide crimes throughout all of Texas. The
Charles Johnson Law Firm can provide legal
counsel at virtually any stage of your case, even
if formal charges have not yet been filed against
you. Currently, Texas has six types of Criminal
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Intoxication Manslaughter and
Homicide is the act of killing another person,
either intentionally or unintentionally. It is
perhaps the most serious crime you could be
accused of, and the potential penalties you could
face if convicted are equally serious. Your lawyer
must be well-versed in Texas and
Federal Homicide laws to successfully
represent you. If you or someone you love has
been charged with any type of Criminal Homicide, you must take these charges very seriously and seek the
legal advice of an experienced and knowledgeable Houston Criminal Defense Attorney right away.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm will examine all the details of your case and will challenge the evidence
against you. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson has helped his clients either prove their innocence, or obtain a
reduction in the charges against them. Whether you or guilty or not, you deserve to have an experienced
attorney on your side who will work aggressively, to protect you and your rights. Contact Criminal Defense
Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day directly at (713) 222-7577. He is always available to
discuss your case.
Texas Penal Code Chapter 19: Four Types Of Criminal Homicide
TPC section 19.01 states that there are four types of Criminal Homicide. They are Murder,Capital
Murder, Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide.
Under TPC section 19.02 there are three basic ways to commit murder:
1. intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
2. intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes
the death of an individual; or
3. commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in
furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission
or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the
death of an individual.
Murder is usually a felony of the first degree, the possible punishment for which is imprisonment in the
institutional division for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years and/or by a fine not
to exceed $10,000. The only exception to this that the crime is a felony of the second degree if the
requirements of TPC sec. 19.02 (d) are satisfied:
At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may raise the issue as to
whether he caused the death under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising
from an adequate cause. If the defendant proves the issue in the affirmative by a
preponderance of the evidence, the offense is a felony of the second degree.
During the punishment phase of the trial, a defendant may argue that he caused the death while under the
immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. “Sudden passion” is “passion
directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person
killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.”
“Adequate cause” is a “cause that would commonly produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror
in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.” Sudden passion is a
mitigating circumstance that, if found by the jury to have been proven by a preponderance of the evidence,
reduces the offense from a first degree felony to a second degree felony.
Thus, before defendants are allowed to have the judge or jury consider sudden passion, defendants must
1. that there was a adequate (legally recognized) provocation for the emotion or passion;
2. an emotion or passion such as terror, anger, rage, fear or resentment existed;
3. that the homicide occurred while the passion or emotion still existed;
4. that the homicide occurred before there was a reasonable opportunity for the passion or emotion to
cool (dissipate); and,
5. that there was a causal connection between the provocation, the passion, and the homicide.
A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years,
and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. This is where the old offense of “voluntary manslaughter” ended up
after amendments to the TPC effective in 1994. Thus, there is currently no offense of voluntary manslaughter
A capital murder is a capital felony. The Texas Penal Code specifically defines Capital Murder (and, thus, the
possibility of the death penalty as a punishment) as murder which involves one or more of the elements listed
1. the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty
and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
2. the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit
kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or
retaliation, or terroristic threat,
3. the person commits the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another
to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
4. the person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
5. the person, while incarcerated in a penal institution, murders another:
a. who is employed in the operation of the penal institution; or
b. with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a
6. the person:
a. while incarcerated for an offense under this section or Sec.19.02, murders another; or
b. while serving a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of 99 years for an offense under Sec.
20.04, 22.021, or 29.03, murders another;
7. the person murders more than one person:
a. during the same criminal transaction; or
b. during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same
scheme or course of conduct;
8. the person murders an individual under six years of age; or
9. the person murders another person in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other
person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a
district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice
court, or a municipal court.
A capital felony is punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole. If the prosecution is not seeking
the death penalty, life without parole is the mandatory sentence. Prior to 2005, capital felony life
imprisonment was life with the possibility of parole after 40 years.
Under current state law, the crimes of Capital Murder and Capital Sabotage (see below) or a second conviction
for the aggravated sexual assault of someone under 14 is eligible for the death penalty.
Note: The Texas Penal Code allows for the death penalty to be assessed for “aggravated sexual assault of
child committed by someone previously convicted of aggravated sexual assault of child”. The statute remains
part of the Penal Code; however, the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana
which outlawed the death penalty for any crime not involving murder nullifies its effect.
The Texas Penal Code also allows a person can be convicted of any felony, including capital murder, “as a
party” to the offense. “As a party” means that the person did not personally commit the elements of the
crime, but is otherwise responsible for the conduct of the actual perpetrator as defined by law; which includes:
soliciting for the act,
encouraging its commission,
aiding the commission of the offense,
participating in a conspiracy to commit any felony where one of the conspirators commits the crime of
The felony involved does not have to be capital murder; if a person is proven to be a party to a felony offense
and a murder is committed, the person can be charged with and convicted of capital murder, and thus eligible
for the death penalty.
As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime or mentally
retarded are precluded from being executed by the Constitution of the United States.
Manslaughter (TPC sec. 19.04) is recklessly causing the death of an individual. Manslaughter is a felony of
the second degree, which is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years,
and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Texas does not officially use the term “involuntary manslaughter” or “voluntary manslaughter” which can
sometimes be a little bit confusing. Many states do make the distinction between voluntary and involuntary
manslaughter. Instead, Texas combines involuntary and voluntary manslaughter together and it is known as
To convict a defendant of manslaughter, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that
the defendant recklessly caused the death of another individual. There is no requirement of premeditation to
this crime and no requirement for there to be intent or knowledge on the part of the defendant. The only
requirement is that the defendant’s conduct was reckless.
Although manslaughter is defined broadly in Texas, there are specific types of manslaughter that are treated
separately. For example, intoxication manslaughter is one, and vehicular manslaughter is another.
Intoxication manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while intoxicated.
Cases involving driving while intoxicated would probably be prosecuted under TPC sec. 49.08, Intoxication
Manslaughter (see below), rather than under this section. Vehicular manslaughter deals with the defendant
recklessly causing the death of another while driving a vehicle or vessel.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Criminally negligent homicide (TPC sec. 19.05) is causing the death of an individual by criminal negligence. It
is a state jail felony under which in general, a person can be confined in a state jail for not more than two
years nor less than 180 days. In addition, a fine of not more than $10,000 may be assessed.
Criminally Negligent Homicide differs from Manslaughter only in terms of the culpability ormens
rea. Criminally negligent homicide involves criminal negligence. Manslaughter involves recklessness. Thus,
Manslaughter involves conscious risk creation (the actor is aware of the risk surrounding his conduct or the
results thereof, but consciously disregards that awareness). Criminally negligent homicide involves inattentive
risk creation. The actor ought to have been aware of the riskiness of his or her conduct but failed to perceive
Recklessness and criminal negligence are more serious forms of culpability than the negligence that can result
in civil liability. Unlike civil or ordinary negligence, recklessness requires some subjective awareness of the
risk. Ordinary negligence is a totally objective standard. Criminal negligence requires a “gross” deviation
from the standard of care a reasonable or ordinary person would have exercised under the same
circumstances. Criminal negligence is roughly equivalent to “gross negligence” which is a more serious form
of culpability than ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence can be made out by showingany deviation from
the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise.
Texas Penal Code Section 49.08 Intoxication Manslaughter
The final type of criminal homicide found in Texas Code is found in TPC ch. 49, “Intoxication and Alcoholic
Beverage Offenses.” A person is guilty of intoxication manslaughter if the person operates a motor vehicle in
a public place, operates an aircraft, watercraft or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride
and “ is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”
“Intoxicated is defined as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more or
“not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled
substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other
substance into the body . . .”
This offense is a felony of the second degree. A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not
more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000
Note that this is a strict liability offense. Guilt attaches even if the death is caused by accident or
mistake. Many observers are critical of strict liability offenses because they arguably punish conduct which is
not blameworthy. Supporters of strict liability offenses counter that such offenses are usually fine-only
offenses. This is clearly not the case for sec. 49.08 for which a person could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.
Section 49.08 does not apply to injury or death of an unborn child if the offense against the unborn child is
committed by the mother of the unborn child. Thus, if a pregnant woman is driving while intoxicated and has
an accident which kills her fetus, it is not a crime.
Texas Government Code – Section 557.012Capital Sabotage
a. A person commits an offense if the person commits an offense under Section 557.011(a) and the
sabotage or attempted sabotage causes the death of an individual.
b. An offense under this section is punishable by:
1. death; or
2. confinement in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for:
A. life; or
B. a term of not less than two years.
c. If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under other law, the
actor may be prosecuted under both sections.
Possible Defenses for Murder Charges
Defenses to first degree murder charges fall into two major categories: claims that the defendant did not
commit the killing in question, and admission that the defendant committed the killing, but did not commit
first degree murder.
Defendants admitting to having killed the victim can assert defenses that they
were justified in doing so (in self defense, for example), or that they were
somehow incapacitated and thus not legally liable. These defenses require the
defendant to put forth proof to support his or her defense.
First degree murder defendants also may simply argue that the prosecution
has not proved all elements of a first degree murder charge typically that the
defendant killed willfully, deliberately and with premeditation. Though the
defendant may support such an argument with evidence, he or she is not
required to do so, as proof of all elements of the crime falls on the shoulders
of the prosecution.
As with statutes defining crimes, the defenses recognized for a specific crime can vary by state. Furthermore,
which defenses a criminal defendant may have depends on the particular facts of the case in question. For
guidance, defendants should consult an attorney well versed in his or her state’s criminal laws.
In first degree murder cases, as well as other homicide crimes, defendants often argue mistaken identity i.e.,
that the prosecution has charged the wrong person with the killing. A defendant arguing mistaken identity
often asserts an alibi if possible, which he or she tries to support with evidence of being somewhere else at
the time of the killing. Other arguments in a mistaken identity defense include challenges to evidence placing
the defendant at the scene of the crime. This can include challenges to witness identification as well as
challenges to forensic evidence. A mistaken identity defense may also point to evidence implicating another
possible suspect, but courts do not require defendants to do so.
Not all homicides are crimes, let alone first degree murders. The most common legal justification for a killing
is self-defense or the defense of others.
To succeed, a defendant arguing self defense must show that the killing resulted from a reasonable use of
force to resist a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm. The defendant cannot have instigated the
threatening situation. The degree of force used in self-defense must be proportional to the threat perceived,
and the threat perceived must be something that would place a reasonable person in fear of death or great
bodily harm. Mere words or insults do not suffice.
The defendant’s reaction to the threat cannot take place after the threat of death or bodily harm has passed.
Many states require that the defendant attempt to retreat or avoid danger if possible before resorting to the
use of deadly force.
For example, if someone incapacitates a mugger with pepper spray, he or she may need to attempt to flee to
safety instead of taking out a pistol and shooting the mugger. States differ in the degree to which they require
an attempt to retreat if the threat they face occurs in the defender’s home.
Defense of Others
The reasonable and proportional defense of others also justifies some killings. The same requirements as self-
defense typically apply: the use of force must be timely and proportional to the threat faced, and the
perceived threat of death or bodily harm must be reasonable.
Exercise of Duty
Certain killings by law enforcement and other public officers qualify as justified homicides. If an officer kills
someone in the exercise of duty and without an unlawful intent, recklessness or negligence, that killing
generally does not constitute murder, let alone first degree murder.
Accident or Misfortune
Killings committed by accident in the course of lawful activities do not constitute murder. Some such killings
may result in liability for manslaughter, but unless an accidental homicide takes place during the commission
of a crime or as a result of other criminal intentions, they would not be covered by first degree or second
degree murder statutes. In certain cases, such as parental discipline of children which results in even
accidental death, the use of physical force beyond excepted norms can push the killing into murder and
possibly, depending on state law, first degree murder.
Most states recognize an insanity defense to charges of first degree murder. Even states which allow the
defense, however, treat it differently and often apply different tests. Most states define insanity, for purposes
of determining criminal liability, as cognitively being unable to appreciate the quality of the act being
committed, or unable to realize that the act is wrong. Some states also recognize a volitional aspect to
“insanity” giving some defendants with disorders affecting impulse control access to the insanity defense.
Hire the Best Criminal Homicide Lawyers: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Murder charges are of course the most serious of all charges and the most seriously pursued by the State
Attorney’s Office or Federal Prosecutors. A person charged with homicide (murder) in Texas risks significant
jail time and most convictions will result in never being released from custody. In some cases, they face being
sentenced to death. Texas has become infamous in the country for the number of murders.
However not all deaths are criminal, and there are several powerful homicide defenses provided under Texas
Law. If you or someone you know is charged with some form of a Homicide charge, then you need the best
possible attorney. You are entitled to the best legal defense possible. Houston Criminal Defense
Lawyer Charles Johnson can deliver that defense for you. Houston Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles
Johnson is available to discuss your case whenever you need him. Contact him directly at (713) 222-7577.
His Law Office is headquartered in Houston, with offices conveniently located in Dallas, Austin and San
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Arrested for Murder in Houston? Why Hiring An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Is Crucial
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson
Solving Problems...Every Day®
815 Walker Street #1047
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (713) 222-7577
Toll-Free: (877) 308-0100
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