Talking about death is never a comfortable subject, yet we at Chris Perri Law believe it’s important for people to understand all aspects of the law, even when it comes to morbid topics, such as homicide. 

These crimes can come with the steepest of consequences, so it’s especially important to be informed. Plus, the nuances of the laws can be confusing. For instance, you may wonder: how is murder different than manslaughter, according to Texas Law? Or, why is a person charged with “capital murder” instead of murder? 

In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between murder, manslaughter, and other homicide charges, so that you can be as knowledgeable as possible when navigating these waters and making legal decisions. 

Homicide in Texas: An Overview

According to the laws laid out in the Texas Penal Code, “a person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.”

In Texas, criminal homicide is broken up into four categories, ranging from the most severe to the least, though all of these crimes are extremely serious felonies:

  • Capital Murder (most severe)

  • Murder

  • Manslaughter

  • Criminally Negligent Homicide (least severe)

In most cases, if your actions result in the death of another person, even if unintentional, you’ve committed some form of criminal homicide, and you will need to contact a criminal defense attorney in Austin, such as Chris Perri, right away.

Even if you believe the homicide was justified by self-defense, it is still important to reach out to a lawyer. Most likely, you’ll have to prove to prosecutors, a judge, and maybe even a jury that your actions were legal, and a good attorney will be essential to keep you out of jail.

Intent Turns Homicide Into Murder, According to Texas Law

For a homicide to be considered murder in Texas, the offender must have intent. This means that, even if they were acting in the heat of the moment, the offender must intend to physically hurt or kill another person. Remember, however, that it is the prosecution’s burden to prove this element. 

Also, a homicide may be deemed murder if the death occurs while the offender is purposely committing an illegal act that results in someone’s death. For example, if a person shoots their gun in the air while robbing a bank and a bullet ricochets off the ceiling and kills someone, the defendant could be charged with murder.

Capital Murder in Texas

In Texas, murder is elevated to capital murder if certain conditions are met, such as:

  • More than one person is killed during the act.

  • The victim is a police officer, jail or prison staff, or child.

  • Financial gain is the primary motivation for the crime.

  • The murder occurs while the offender is committing or attempting to commit other serious crimes such as burglary, robbery, sexual assault, arson, retaliation, terrorism, kidnapping, trying to break out of prison, and more.

Capital murder is the most serious homicide charge, and the punishment can be death or life in prison without parole. This is true in counties across Texas, including Travis County, Hays County, Williamson County, Bastrop County, Burnet County, Bell County, and beyond. 

Manslaughter vs. Criminally Negligent Homicide in Texas

In this section, we will discuss the legal difference between “manslaughter” and “criminally negligent homicide.”


According to the Texas Penal Code, “manslaughter” is defined as when “a person commits an offense if he recklessly causes the death of an individual.” Unlike murder, manslaughter does not require intent. Rather, it is recklessness that is the key element of the crime. Manslaughter is a less severe charge than murder, but it is still a felony, and more severe than criminally negligent homicide.

One of the most common manslaughter charges in Austin is intoxication manslaughter, which is a type of felony DWI. For example, if a person is driving drunk and causes the death of another person, then they’ll likely be charged with intoxication manslaughter. 

No matter what, you’ll need a lawyer if you are charged with this, and Austin criminal defense lawyer Chris Perri has extensive experience representing those accused of such crimes.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

The Texas Penal Code defines criminally negligent homicide as when one person “causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence.”

So, what constitutes criminal negligence, and how is it different from recklessness? Typically, in the eyes of the law, “recklessness” implies some level of awareness by the offender of the dangerousness of the behavior, while “negligence” means the offender did not have awareness, though they probably should have. 

Typically, criminally negligent homicide involves accidental behavior, lack of compliance with safety measures, or lack of reasonable foresight. Though the least serious of the homicide crimes, criminally negligent homicide is still a state jail felony in Texas, and you will need the help of a lawyer.

Based In Austin, Chris Perri Law Has Extensive Experience Successfully Helping Those Facing Criminal Homicide.

An award-winning criminal defense attorney with over 15 years of experience, Chris Perri has helped countless clients facing murder, manslaughter, and other serious charges, and he’s ready to help you, too.

Some of his successes include:

  • Winning murder trials

  • Proving self-defense

  • Getting homicide charges reduced

  • Helping clients avoid prison time

  • Overturning wrongful convictions

  • And much more

Practicing in Travis County, Hays County, Williamson County, Bastrop County, Burnet County, Bell County, and throughout Texas, Chris Perri is ready to fight for you. The sad truth is that wrongful arrests and convictions happen all the time, even for crimes as serious as murder. However, a qualified criminal defense lawyer can help. Investing in a proven attorney can make the difference in the outcome of your case, and thus your freedom.

 If you or someone you care about has been accused or convicted of homicide in Texas, call Chris Perri Law at (512) 269-0260 for a free consultation today.