What is the difference between homicide, manslaughter and murder?

Actions that cause the death of others may result in criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter or murder charges, all of which carry serious penalties.

When people in Texas die as the result of another's actions, it is considered homicide. While not all forms of homicide are illegal, a number are, and may result in serious legal charges. These include criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter and murder. In order to help protect their rights, it behooves people to understand the difference between these offenses in the state of Texas.

What is criminally negligent homicide?

If a person causes the death of another person by criminal negligence, it may constitute criminally negligent homicide. In general, criminal negligence is any action that significantly deviates from the reasonable, normal standards of ordinary people. For example, a doctor is treating a patient, but fails to adhere to general hygienic standards. As a result, his patient contracts a serious illness, which proves fatal. It may be argued that by failing to provide sanitary conditions, the doctor created the circumstances that led to the patient's death.

In the state of Texas, criminally negligent homicide is considered a state jail felony. According to the state's Office of the Attorney General, those convicted of this offense may be sentenced to between 180 days and two years in a state jail. Additionally, they may be fined up to $10,000.

What is manslaughter?

Sometimes, people engage in reckless, or otherwise dangerous, activities. When such behaviors cause a fatality, it may constitute manslaughter under Texas state law. For example, a man is out with friends and has several alcoholic beverages. While driving home, he is involved in a collision, which kills the driver of the other vehicle. The man may be charged with a form of manslaughter.

Manslaughter is considered a second-degree felony in the state of Texas. If convicted of this offense, people may be sentenced to imprisonment in the institutional division for between two and 20 years. They may also be fined no more than $10,000.

What is murder?

If it is alleged that a person knowingly or intentionally causes someone else's death, he or she may be charged with murder in the state of Texas. Situations in which a person intends to cause serious bodily injury, or commits an act that is evidently gravely dangerous, then he or she may also be charged with murder. Additionally, people may also face murder charges under Texas state law if they are committing, or attempting to commit, a felony offense and, in the course of the act, another person is killed. This is also the case if someone is killed as a person is fleeing the commission, or attempted commission, of a felony.

Depending on the circumstances, murder charges are either first-degree felonies or second-degree felonies. If convicted of a second-degree murder charge, people may face the same penalties as those who are convicted of manslaughter. First-degree felony charges, however, carry more serious consequences. The state's Office of the Attorney General points out that those convicted of first-degree murder may be sentenced to between five and 99 years in the institutional division, or life in prison. They may also be fined a maximum of $10,000.

Obtain legal counsel

The criminal charges that may result from homicides in Texas, and elsewhere, often carry potentially life-changing consequences. Thus, those who are facing allegations of criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter or murder may benefit from seeking legal representation. An attorney may help them to understand the charges they are facing, as well as to build a solid criminal defense.