What Is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Texas?

To learn more about the differences between murder and manslaughter, read on and reach out to our skilled Houston criminal defense attorneys. We are on your side no matter what.

How does the state of Texas define murder?

Murder charges are further split based on the severity and other circumstances encompassing the crime. While many states divide murder charges into first and second-degree murder, Texas law creates a difference between “capital murder” and “murder.”

To be charged with murder, the defendant must have knowingly and willingly caused the death of another person. The most significant distinguishing factor between murder and manslaughter involves the intent of the perpetrator. If the defendant intended to cause serious bodily harm or death, or intended to commit a felony other than manslaughter that resulted in death, he or she can be charged with murder.

The difference between capital murder and murder is made when the killing was committed in a way that can result in capital punishment in Texas. Some of the standards for capital murder include killing a police officer or firefighter, having been paid to commit murder, murdering someone in prison, or killing more than one person.

When it comes to capital murder, clearly, the punishment can result in the execution of the defendant. A defendant who is sentenced to capital murder could also be given life in prison without the possibility of parole. A murder charge without capital implications, on the other hand, is a first-degree felony that can result in anywhere from 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000. Several defenses, such as insanity or a crime of passion defense, can result in lower charges or penalties in murder cases.

What is manslaughter?

Many states have two different types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Texas, however, connects these two charges into one and has enhanced penalties for certain aggravating factors, in accordance with Texas Penal Code § 19.04.

In order to be charged with manslaughter, a defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have recklessly caused the death of another person. Contrary to murder, intent does not need to be proven in order to convict someone of manslaughter.

While Texas does not differentiate between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, it is the only state that has a specific crime known as “intoxication manslaughter” which is reserved for when a death is caused by someone who was impaired by drugs or alcohol. This charge most often applies to impaired motorists. All manslaughter charges in Texas are second-degree felonies which carry prison sentences of 2 to 20 years and fines up to $10,000. Intoxication manslaughter may also result in minimum sentencing and a mandatory 240-800 community services hours.


We understand how challenging various legal matters can be, which is why we have dedicated ourselves to helping clients in Texas through a wide array of legal matters, including personal injury law and criminal defense. If you have sustained a serious injury or are facing criminal charges, contact the Gonzalez Law Group today to learn more about how we can help you through every step of the legal process ahead.