Any incident that leads to the death of one person can carry with it long-term legal issues, in criminal as well as civil court. In Texas, the deliberate and intentional killing can be charged as a form of murder, but a number of other types of deaths may lead to manslaughter charges. The state does not officially differentiate between involuntary manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter, although the difference in severity is reflected in different penalties or enhancements.
Manslaughter in Texas
Manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Texas, with sentences typically ranging from two to 20 years in state prison or a fine of up to $10,000. Under the Texas Penal Code, manslaughter is defined as recklessly causing the death of another person. In order for an act to be considered reckless, the person responsible should be aware of the risks of their conduct or that a person could die as a result, but they acted anyway with disregard for that risk of harm. The state does not need to show intent, knowledge or premeditation; manslaughter is not a murder charge. Instead, the prosecution aims to prove that the defendant was reckless.
Intoxication and vehicular manslaughter
There are two specific additional types of manslaughter. Intoxication manslaughter is a charge used when someone is accused of recklessly causing another person’s death while intoxicated, such as in a drunk driving case. Vehicular manslaughter specifically deals with incidents where a driver is accused of causing the death of someone else in a car accident due to reckless driving. People accused of manslaughter or other violent crimes can defend themselves in court; every person is considered innocent until proven guilty under the law.
Some defenses for manslaughter charges include showing that the accused person was not responsible for the death or did not act recklessly in the incident. There are other potential defenses as well, including self-defense, insanity or some forms of provocation.