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How are Murder and Manslaughter Different?

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For both the crimes of manslaughter and murder, a person has been killed. The difference between the two lies in the mens rea, or intent, of the offender. A crime is charged as murder if the person takes a life with malicious intent. Manslaughter is charged if a person kills another without malice or a person dies because of the reckless actions of another.

Manslaughter Laws

Texas specifically defines manslaughter as “a person recklessly [causing] the death of an individual.” Once a prosecutor charges an offender, the prosecutor must have enough evidence to prove to a jury that the offender committed manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. For a person to be convicted, there does not have to be any premeditation of killing. The only requirement is that the defendant’s actions were careless.

Types of Manslaughter

Many states separate manslaughter into two separate categories: voluntary and involuntary. The state of Texas, however, does not do this. Texas only recognizes the different types of manslaughter:

  • Vehicular manslaughter: The killing of another while the offender is driving
  • Intoxication manslaughter: The killing of another while under the influence of alcohol
  • Criminally negligent homicide: This charge differs from the ones above because the mens rea requires criminal negligence, not recklessness

In Texas, the penalties for manslaughter are less than those of murder. Manslaughter carries between two and 20 years in prison, as well as a fine of no more than $10,000.

Defending Against Manslaughter

A person who is charged with manslaughter may have an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense means that the offender admits to killing the person, however, the offender had an acceptable reason to do so. Self-defense and defense of others are common affirmative defenses. There are certain times when a defendant may have been temporarily insane when the crime was committed. This defense relies on a person’s mental state being so problematic that he could not distinguish between right and wrong.

To discuss the evidence presented in a specific manslaughter case, contact Brett A. Podolsky at 713-227-0087.

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