People who unintentionally kill others are often charged with manslaughter rather than murder because they do not act with malice aforethought. In many states, offenders can be charged with either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter depending on the nature of their crimes. There is no distinction between involuntary and voluntary manslaughter in Texas, but harsher penalties are handed down to offenders in the Lone Star State who cause the death of others while intoxicated or driving a motor vehicle.
The Texas Penal Code defines manslaughter as a reckless act that causes the death of an individual. Prosecutors do not have to prove intent to secure a manslaughter conviction in Texas, but they do have to establish that the defendant was aware their behavior could be dangerous. Discharging a firearm in a crowded room and getting behind the wheel of an automobile while impaired by alcohol or drugs are examples of obviously dangerous behavior, but the facts in a manslaughter case are sometimes far less clear. Individuals can also be charged with manslaughter in Texas if their reckless failure to act causes the death of another.
Manslaughter penalties in Texas
Manslaughter is a second-degree felony offense in Texas that is punishable by between two and 20 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. This means that judges in the Lone Star State have a great deal of discretion when they hand down manslaughter sentences. Defendants who are remorseful and have not been in trouble of the law before are usually treated more leniently than offenders who acted with extreme recklessness and have committed violent crimes in the past.
An individual commits manslaughter when their reckless actions cause the death of another human being. Texas law does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, but it does give judges a great deal of sentencing discretion.