Picture of the author

Understanding Murder in Plano, Texas

Murder is a first-degree felony offense in Plano that involves knowingly and intentionally causing the death of an individual. The requirement of intention can be fulfilled even if the offender intended to kill another person but ends up causing death to the victim. A murder charge can also ensue where the suspect, intending to cause serious injury, takes a human life. Likewise, death caused while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense can also amount to murder in Plano. The offense is criminalized under Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code, and conviction carries serious potential penalties, including imprisonment from 5 to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Generally, crimes that cause the death of a person are jointly referred to as criminal homicides in Texas. Besides murder, other criminal homicide charges are capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. In addition to incarceration and fines, these offenses usually carry severe collateral consequences, including a permanent criminal record, limitation on the right to own firearms and vote, and suspension of driver’s license. 

What is First Degree Murder in Plano?

Though Texas laws do not use the term first-degree murder, this classification is generally equivalent to the most severe homicide charge in the state, capital murder. This crime is a capital felony offense that can attract a death penalty or life imprisonment without parole options. However, per Texas laws, the death penalty cannot be imposed on someone below the age of 17 or a person with mental illness. 

Capital murder has the same fundamental elements as murder. However, a murder charge becomes capital murder if:

  • The victim is a peace officer or fireman on duty.
  • It occurred while the suspect was committing or attempting a  kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat.
  • The offender was paying or being paid to kill the victim
  • The killing occurred while the offender was escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution
  • It is committed while serving a prison term
  • The offender causes death to more than one person
  • The victim is a child that is ten years or younger
  • The offender killed the victim as retaliation for working with the judiciary.

What is Second-Degree Murder in Plano?

Murder in Plano is typically a first-degree felony offense. However, the crime can be diminished to a second-degree felony if the accused’s actions were in the heat of passion, caused by provocation from the victim or someone acting with the victim. Such a provocation must have involved a matter that would normally lead to a level of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a reasonable person. Likewise, the defendant’s action must be sudden. Therefore, the offense may not be diminished if the accused had some time to reflect and cool down before committing the murder. In Plano, murder committed in the heat of passion is punishable with imprisonment between 2 to 20 years, including a fine not exceeding $10,000. 

What is Third-Degree Murder in Plano?

Texas laws do not provide for third-degree murder. However, in other states, third-degree murder occurs when the victim dies as a result of a dangerous act committed by the defendant, even though there is no intention to kill. Such actions may be committed negligently or recklessly. If committed negligently, that is, conduct that the defendant should have known can create a significant risk to a person’s life, it would amount to criminally negligent homicide in Plano. This offense is considered a state jail felony punishable with a prison term between 180 days and two years, including a fine not exceeding $10,000. On the other hand, if the defendant’s actions were reckless, that is, committed with knowledge that it can lead to a certain result,  then it would amount to manslaughter. 

What is Manslaughter in Plano?

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony offense that involves causing the death of a person through reckless acts. An act is deemed to be reckless if the defendant knew of the risks associated with it but carries on with it. Manslaughter is considered a less severe charge than murder, considering that it does not involve a deliberate act to kill the victim. Punishment for manslaughter in Plano includes imprisonment between two to 20 years, plus a fine of up to $10,000.

What is Vehicular Manslaughter?

The offense of vehicular manslaughter involves unintentionally killing a person while recklessly operating a motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft. Section 545.401 of the Texas Transportation Code extends this offense to instances where a person causes the death of another during involvement in a race, vehicle speed competition or contest, drag race, or any acceleration contest. In Plano, vehicular manslaughter is classified as a second-degree felony that attracts between two to 20 years in jail, a fine not exceeding $10,000, and a lengthy suspension of a driver’s license. 

What is Voluntary Manslaughter?

Texas laws do not further divide the crime into voluntary and involuntary. However, voluntary manslaughter generally refers to instances where a person kills another in the spur of the moment, without prior intention. The defendant’s actions must have been a result of sudden provocation from the victim. As such, the defendant was not able to reflect on their action. This offense is similar to the murder committed in the heat of passion which is a second-degree felony charge in Plano with potential penalties ranging from 2 to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

What is Involuntary Manslaughter?

A person may face charges for involuntary manslaughter for killing someone with no prior intention. The charge stems from the defendant’s reckless act. Involuntary manslaughter is not a separate charge in Plano. However, Texas law provides for manslaughter committed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. To be guilty of the offense, the accused must have been operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. Intoxicated manslaughter is classified as a second-degree felony that attracts two to 20 years in prison, a fine not exceeding $10,000, and suspension of the offender’s driver’s license for at least 180 days. 

What Type of Lawyer do I Need for a Murder Charge in Plano?

Murder is considered one of the most serious offenses in Plano, and its consequences are severe and can be long-lasting. However, persons facing a murder charge in Plano can avoid these consequences by getting good representation from a competent attorney. A competent attorney has a better understanding of the legal system and can help an accused get a favorable result by arguing applicable defenses to a case, including:

  • Self-defense, defense of others and property, and prevention of crime: The accused may assert that they acted with reasonable force in the circumstances leading to the victim’s death, in their own defense, property or to protect someone else from imminent harm. 
  • Mistaken identity: it is also a defense that the defendant has been mistaken for another person due to unreliable witnesses. To argue this defense, the defense attorney would also likely rely on the defense of alibi to show that the defendant was never at the crime scene and, as such, could not have committed the offense. 
  • Lack of intent: for a murder charge to be successful, the defendant’s acts must have been intentional. Depending on the circumstance of the case, where murder is committed accidentally, then the charge may be diminished to either manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. Similarly, where the defendant did not intend to kill but nonetheless does so in the heat of the moment due to a provocation, the murder charge can be diminished to a second-degree felony offense. 
  • Constitutional violations: the prosecution cannot rely on evidence obtained in contravention of the U.S Constitution. Notably, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution grants persons the right not to provide any information while being questioned. Evidence obtained in violation of the accused’s constitutional right or that was handled without proper legal procedures may be thrown out. 
  • Insanity: evidence of the accused’s insanity presented in court may save the accused from serving jail term, but the court may order enrollment in a mental health institution. 
  • Exercise of lawful duty: the law protects law enforcement and police officers from murder conviction if the act constituting the charge was done reasonably and in the course of their duty. Such acts must also not be linked to any criminal intent or result from recklessness or negligence by the officer.