Your Guide to Facing Murder Charges in Texas
Investigations into murders and murder charges can feel overwhelming for the suspect and close family and friends. If you know what to expect, you can face the charges as an informed citizen. This is what you should know about murder charges in Texas.
How Texas Defines Murder
Texas recognizes four types of criminal homicide: capital murder, murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide.
- Capital murder. The state may escalate murder charges to capital murder charges if it believes a person accepted payment to kill, killed during the commission of certain felonies, killed inside of jail/prison or while trying to escape, killed multiple people, killed a child, or killed certain public servants/officials. If convicted, a person may face the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole.
- If a person kills intentionally with malice aforethought, causes a blatantly life-threatening bodily injury, or kills someone during the commission of a felony, the state can charge the individual with murder. For murder, an individual may face several years in prison, life in prison, or the death penalty.
- Reckless behavior that proximally causes a person’s death can result in manslaughter charges. A person need not intend to kill someone to face these charges. If convicted, someone could spend up to 20 years in prison.
- Criminally negligent homicide. If someone fails to use a prescribed duty of care and that inattention leads to another person’s death, the state may pursue criminally negligent homicide charges. Maximum sentencing in these cases is two years in jail.
How Murder Charges Work
Murder charges can begin with an arrest or with an investigation into a crime. Either way, the prosecutor will evaluate the facts of the case and determine whether to move forward with murder or murder-related charges. The state can move forward with criminal charges if it presents enough evidence in a preliminary hearing or in a grand jury proceeding. Prosecutors will move quickly to file the charges, and the entire process from arrest to arraignment may only take a few days.
What Suspects and Loved Ones Should Know About Murder Charges
From the moment an investigator makes an introduction until the last day in court, the state will scrutinize the suspect and possibly his or her loved ones. What you say and how you behave can help or hurt the outcome of the case. A defense attorney will help you prepare for questioning and help you understand your rights. In general, those facing such serious charges should:
- Invoke their Fifth Amendment rights. Watch what you say in person and through electronic mediums. Never talk or write about the facts of a case in jail communications (officials can read your mail and listen in on your conversations). Avoid making comments on social media, in emails, and in text messages. If you’re innocent or guilty, the best way you can protect yourself and your loved ones is to stay silent. Some language can be misconstrued.
- Comply with the process. From the moment the state takes a person into custody, it can make life easy or hard for everyone involved. Remain polite and compliant, even when you feel overwhelmed, angry, and frustrated.
- Do not waive your right to an attorney. A defense attorney is your most powerful ally in a murder case. Talk candidly with your attorney, focus on the end goal, and keep realistic expectations.