Aggravating factors and special circumstances explained by DFW defense attorneys
Texas law differs from federal law and other state laws in that it does not distinguish between different degrees of murder. Instead, there are four types of criminal homicide in Texas: voluntary manslaughter, manslaughter, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide.
In this article, we explain the differences between murder and manslaughter in Texas. As a Dallas criminal defense attorney, we have handled hundreds of violent crime cases at Broden & Mickelsen, LLP and achieved positive results for our clients.
RELATED: What is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide? Texas defense attorney Mick Mikkelsen explains
Murder in Texas Legal Definition
According to the Texas Penal Code, there are three main circumstances that constitute murder in the state of Texas. In order to commit murder, a person must have done one of three things:
- Intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another person.
- You committed an act clearly dangerous to human life with the intent to cause serious bodily injury, resulting in the death of another person.
- He committed an act clearly dangerous to human life while committing or attempting to commit a felony, or while immediately fleeing from the crime or attempting to commit it, which resulted in the death of another person.
Murder is considered a first-degree felony in the state of Texas, which means those convicted of murder will receive a prison sentence of between five and ninety-nine years.
What is the difference between murder and manslaughter in Texas?
Capital murders in Texas occur when a murder case involves one or more of the aggravating factors set forth in the Texas Penal Code. These aggravating factors are explained below.
Killing specific victims
Killing specific victims will almost always raise a murder charge to a murder charge. These include:
- Peace officers and firefighters, provided that they are acting in the lawful performance of their official duties and that the perpetrator knows that the victim is a peace officer or firefighter.
- Employees of the penal institution where the offender is legally detained.
- Children under the age of ten.
- Children between ten and fifteen years old.
A judge or judge (of the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Court of Appeal, the District Court, the Criminal District Court, the Constitutional District Court, the District Court of Justice, the Court of Justice or the Municipal Court), if the murder has been committed In retaliation for the victim’s status or service as a judge or justice.
Committing a murder while in prison
A murder can be upgraded to voluntary manslaughter if it is committed while in prison under certain circumstances, including:
- A murder committed while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution.
- A murder committed in a penal institution with the aim of making or maintaining a profit.
Murder committed by an individual in a penal institution serving a prison sentence for first-degree murder, manslaughter, or while serving a life sentence or a 99-year sentence.
Committing a murder during other crimes
Other circumstances that elevate a murder charge to a murder charge involve the commission of the murder along with other criminal offenses:
- A murder committed intentionally while the perpetrator was committing or attempting to commit certain crimes, including kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction, retaliation, or terroristic threat.
- A murder committed in exchange for a reward (cash payment) or the promise of a reward. In this case, both the person who was hired to commit the murder and the person who hired the killer could be charged with capital murder.
- Multiple murders committed either at the same time or at different times but in pursuit of the same criminal scheme or course of conduct.
What are the penalties for murder in Texas?
Voluntary murder is a capital felony in Texas, which means it carries harsher penalties than regular murder charges. Those convicted of murder will be punished with death, either life imprisonment or the death penalty.
What are the special issues in a premeditated murder case?
In Texas capital murder cases, the death penalty is on the table. Texas is one of 31 states where the death penalty is an option for particularly heinous crimes. When returning a guilty verdict in a capital murder case, the jury is asked to consider three special issues to decide whether the defendant should be sentenced to the death penalty or life imprisonment.
In order for a defendant to be sentenced to the death penalty in a Texas capital murder case, the jury must answer “yes” to the first two special issues and “no” to the third special issue. Ten of the jurors must agree beyond a reasonable doubt to accept the answer “yes” on either of the first two special questions.
Special issue No. 1
The first special issue asks the jury to decide whether there is a possibility that the defendant will commit acts of criminal violence that pose a threat to the community.
Special issue No. 2
The second special issue that the jury must consider concerns the intent of the perpetrator. It can be divided into three main parts:
- Did the accused actually cause the victim’s death?
- If the defendant did not actually cause the victim’s death, did he intend to kill the deceased or kill someone else?
- If the defendant had not actually caused the victim’s death, did they anticipate that a human life would be lost as a result of their actions?
Special issue No. 3
If the jury answers “yes” to the first two special questions, they will then be asked to consider the third special question, which involves considering the defendant’s character, background, and moral circumstances to determine if there are any mitigating factors that would make life imprisonment without parole a more appropriate sentence. From the death penalty.
Major Murder Defense Strategies in Texas
If you or a loved one has been charged with a serious crime such as first-degree murder or manslaughter, you may feel hopeless or like there is nothing you can do but accept your fate. However, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally caused the death of the decedent. With a knowledgeable defense attorney who has experience handling Texas murders and manslaughter, you may be able to have your charges dismissed or reduced to less serious charges, depending on the circumstances of your particular case.
Several common murder defense strategies that can be used include:
Lack of intention.
Accidents happen, and in some cases, defendants may be charged with intentionally killing someone when they were in fact involved in an accident. Furthermore, the defendant may not have intended his actions to result in the victim’s death. To prove a murder, the prosecution must be able to prove that the alleged perpetrator intended to kill the victim by his or her actions. If the defense can present evidence that the defendant did not intend for the victim to die, the outcome of your case will likely be more favorable.
Texas is one of 25 states that use a “stand your ground” law, which means you are allowed to confront a violent threat with force. In order for a defendant to successfully argue that the killing was in self-defense and therefore justified, he must show several things:
- They reasonably feared death or physical harm from the victim (verbal threats and insults are unlikely to be enough to show this).
- The defendant used a reasonable amount of force proportional to the severity of the threat. For example, it may be difficult to argue that shooting someone multiple times was a reasonable or proportionate response to a push in the shoulder.
- The defendant must not have provoked the threatening situation. In other words, if you punched someone first, they retaliated in self-defense, and you ended up killing them, you wouldn’t be able to argue self-defense, because you instigated the threat.
- The defendant must not have used force after the threat of death or bodily harm had passed. Showing up to someone’s home with a knife hours after they threatened you is inexcusable.
Sudden emotion arising from sufficient cause.
The Texas Penal Code indicates that a defendant may be able to argue that the alleged crime was the result of “sudden passion arising from sufficient cause.” The Penal Code defines sudden passion as “an emotion directly caused by or arising from the provocation of the person killed or of another person acting with the person killed.” A relevant cause is defined as “a cause which would ordinarily produce in a person of a normal temperament a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror sufficient to render the mind incapable of calm thought.”
It is important to note that a sudden display of emotion resulting from a valid reason does not mean that your charges will be dismissed. However, if successful, this strategy will result in your charges being reduced to a second-degree felony, resulting in a prison sentence of between two and twenty years.
Dallas Violent Crime Lawyers – Broden & Mickelsen, LLP
If you have been charged with a violent criminal offense in Texas, it is essential to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling violent crime cases in Texas. Broden & Mickelsen, LLP provides aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses accused of criminal offenses. The firm achieves this through its unique team approach to criminal defense, which involves both partners actively participating in the case.
To arrive at an appropriate solution, Broden & Mickelsen, LLP evaluates each case individually and utilizes all available resources. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization has certified criminal defense attorneys Clint Broden and Mick Mikkelsen as experts in criminal law for trials and appeals.
Call Broden & Mickelsen, LLP to discuss the details of your case today: (214) 720-9552.