Homicide offenses are heavily punishable crimes in Texas -- even when the death is caused by an accident. Defending yourself against a homicide charge is imperative if you do not want to put your freedom at risk. Only the best, top-rated attorney can successfully defend a person against a homicide charge. But that said, success is conditional -- it depends on the facts of the case and what your realistic options are for a realistic outcome.
For Doug Murphy, a Board Certified homicide defense attorney representing clients in Harris County and surrounding counties, homicide charges do not guarantee a conviction; they can be successfully defended. It takes a strategic defense based on the facts, the evidence, and the lack of evidence, and how it is all put together to persuasively argue on your behalf before the State, the judge, and the jury. If you have been charged with a homicide offense, contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today discuss your case with a criminal law specialist.
What are homicide offenses in the State of Texas?
Criminal homicide is defined and outlined in Title 5, Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code. Accordingly,
A person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.
Under Chapter 19, there are four specific homicide crimes explained:
- Capital Murder. Capital murder can be committed under two different circumstances: (1) the person killed is a fireman or law enforcement agent; or (2) a person is killed during the commission of a felony -- like arson, kidnapping, robbery, terroristic threat, or sexual assault. Capital murder is a capital felony.
- Murder. Murder is the result of two circumstances: (1) when a person intentionally or knowingly takes someone else's life; or (2) when a person intentionally commits an act that can clearly be a danger to human life and, in effect, causes the death of another person. Murder is a first-degree felony.
- Manslaughter. Manslaughter occurs when a person recklessly causes the death of someone else. Vehicular manslaughter is manslaughter caused by a vehicle. Intoxication manslaughter is manslaughter also usually caused by a vehicle with the exception that the driver who allegedly caused the accident was intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs. Manslaughter is generally a second-degree felony.
- Criminally Negligent Homicide. A criminally negligent homicide occurs when a person kills another person by “accident” and that the “accident” amounts to criminal negligence. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony.
Penalties for a conviction of any one of these offenses can result in long sentences of jail or prison time and/or steep fines. Other forms of penalties are not included in the penal code but are imposed by society. Collateral consequences include things like losing your right to vote or to own and use a firearm. Your criminal record and the very nature of the crime will also impact your ability to find employment or housing. A conviction of a homicide crime will -- regardless the degree of that crime -- affect your life to your detriment.
Are there defenses to homicide charges?
There are defenses that may apply in your unique case. There are affirmative defenses and general defenses. Affirmative defenses justify your actions while general defenses negate your criminal responsibility. Determining if a defense applies in your case will be determined by your attorney. The problem with defenses is twofold:
- To assert a defense means to acknowledge guilt; and
- To be successful with the defense, the defendant has the burden to prove it by a preponderance of the evidence.
Common defenses to homicide charges include:
- Defense of Others
- Defense of Property.
You are permitted by statute to use reasonable force against another person to defend yourself, another person, or your property. Under certain circumstances, deadly force is considered reasonable. You have the right to use force against an aggressor who:
- Attacks you;
- Commits or threatens to commit a crime against your person; or
- Enters your residence unlawfully.
You also have the right to use force to defend a third person when:
- The third person is also justified to defend him or herself; or
- It is your reasonable belief the third person needs immediate assistance for his or her protection.
The circumstances and facts of the case will determine if the use and level of force were reasonable, i.e., a reasonable person in the same situation would have done the same. To be clear, there are limitations to the right to defend yourself, your property, and/or a third person. For instance:
- You cannot be the aggressor; and
- You cannot use deadly force when the other person's actions do not rise to the need for deadly force (the aggressor only made verbal attacks or slapped you but had no weapon on his or her person).
Because (1) you must assert your guilt alongside the assertion of a defense and (2) the asserted defense must be proven by you and -- for that matter -- will be challenged by the State, you need a defense attorney committed to your defense and capable of successfully defending you.
Homicide crimes are serious and the State of Texas will pursue the case with all its available resources. As such, you cannot afford to retain any criminal defense attorney you find on the internet. You need a top-rated homicide defense attorney.
Doug Murphy has proven himself to be one of Houston's premier criminal defense lawyers. He has the commitment, the skills, the resources, the trial experience, the knowledge, and the capabilities to provide a robust, smart defense.
His Board Certification in criminal law is a testimony to his capabilities. He is also Board Certified in DWI defense, which is important for intoxication manslaughter cases. The combination of these two Board Certifications distinguishes him from all other attorneys in the State of Texas because no other attorney -- but one -- holds both certifications simultaneously. This is an important attribute because these certifications require proof of trial experience, proof of knowledge, proof of skills, peer recognition, among other factors, in order to qualify for certification.
Smart, Committed, Board Certified Homicide Defense Lawyer in Houston, TX
Homicide charges are emotionally-driven and very technical cases that require someone who is sensitive to the emotional side of it and well-trained to understand and carry out the technical part of it. That requires experience. Doug Murphy has been defending clients for 20 years. His experience goes beyond legal representation; he is often asked by his peers to present topics at conferences and workshops. He fully engages the criminal defense practice area from all sides: as defender, litigator, negotiator, investigator, and teacher.
Doug Murphy believes each and every client deserves a strong defense. Contact his office either online or at (713) 229-8333 to get started on your defense today.