Criminal negligence is behavior that “grossly deviates” from an ordinary individual’s customary and reasonable standards. There is no reckless conduct or intent to harm; instead, the individual displays a complete disregard or indifference for human life. In Texas, criminal negligence can result in charge of homicide.
What Is “Homicide”?
Homicide is the killing of another human being, and it includes all intentional and non-intentional killings.
How Is “Criminally Negligent Homicide” Defined in Texas?
In Texas, criminally negligent homicide is defined as the death of another individual by a person who was aware of the substantial risk of the circumstances yet failed to appreciate the degree of severity.
Does Texas Require Intent to Charge Me with Negligent Homicide?
No. Negligent homicide doesn’t require intent. Rather, the law only requires a defendant to fall far below the standard of care which led to the victim’s death.
What Is the Punishment for a Criminally Negligent Homicide Charge?
A criminally negligent homicide conviction is a “state jail felony.” It’s punishable by 180 days to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Are There Any Defenses for Criminally Negligent Homicide?
Yes. There are specific defenses available, depending on the surrounding circumstances of the defendant’s case.
Some typical defenses include:
- The victim did not die due to the direct effect of the defendant’s negligence.
- The defendant had no legal duty to the victim, so they had no responsibility and could not be criminally liable for the homicide.
- The defendant was ignorant of the risks that led to the victim’s death.
What Is the Legal Definition of Homicide?
The legal definition of homicide includes several acts, such as intentional crimes (e.g., murder) and involuntary acts (e.g., involuntary manslaughter).
Each classification of homicide crimes is associated with a different legal consequence or punishment.
The types of defenses available for each homicide crime may differ depending on the laws of a state and the nature of the crime.
How Do Homicide Defenses Work?
In a case brought against a defendant for homicide charges, the immediate goal of using a defense may not always be to remove the charges completely. Rather, defenses are often cited against a homicide charge to reduce a more severe degree of homicide to a less severe offense.
An example of this is when a defense is used to lessen the defendant’s charges from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.
To be found guilty of homicide, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant acted in the requisite mental state. For example, in a case against a defendant for first-degree murder charges, the prosecution or government must demonstrate that the defendant acted with intention and premeditated the act.
Therefore, it is often the case that many defenses to homicide are based on a lack of the required mental state.
What Are Some Different Types of Homicide Defenses?
There are several kinds of defenses available to defendants charged with homicide. These include some of the following defenses:
- Justifiable Homicide: Justifiable homicides are offenses excused by the law. A justifiable homicide defense is generally a complete defense against the charge of homicide. This means that the defense, if proven, will excuse the defendant from receiving punishment or sentence for committing the crime of homicide.
Some types of defenses listed under the general category of a justifiable homicide defense include:
- Perfect Self-Defense: It may be a defense to a charge of homicide if the defendant acted out of the legitimate and sensible belief that the homicide was necessary for self-defense. The defendant will usually be required to demonstrate that they did not initiate the violence and used an equal amount of force in reacting to the aggressor.
- Imperfect Self-Defense: If a defendant truthfully believed that self-defense was necessary, but a reasonable individual would believe otherwise, the defendant could still be let off by using imperfect self-defense. The main difference between perfect and imperfect self-defense is that imperfect self-defense does not have a reasonable belief requirement.
- Defense of Property: Death or extreme bodily injury against another is usually not allowed as a defense to protect property. Yet, there are some instances where it may be acceptable if the defendant can establish that the intruder or trespasser threatened their life as the property owner.
- Duress/Necessity: Although infrequent, it may be possible to get a sentence lessened if the defendant shows that another individual forced them to commit the killing. This defense is not available for murder charges, and depending on the state laws and circumstances of the case, it may only enable the defendant to have their sentence lessened, not removed.
- Crime Prevention: If a defendant committed a killing to stop another crime, it might be a defense if it can be demonstrated that they were reasonable in their intervention. The standards will vary depending on whether the defendant is law enforcement or a civilian.
- Inability to Intentionally Kill: If the defendant is incompetent to understand that they have a duty not to take a life or the defendant cannot act on that duty, they may be able to use the defense that they cannot intentionally kill.
- Insanity: Criminal laws provide miscellaneous defenses under the category of insanity. It typically must be established that the defendant was not mentally sound at the time of the act and also that they lacked the needed mental state for homicide. Records will show that the defendant claimed an insanity defense, which could affect other areas of the defendant’s life.
- Intoxication: This type of defense is usually used to lessen a murder charge to a less severe charge. Intoxication can sometimes render a person unable to form the required mental state for homicide. Nevertheless, a voluntary intoxication has much less influence in court because it is assumed that the defendant should understand when to stop drinking or when their intoxicated state begins to become extreme.
- Diminished Capacity: Diminished capacity, also known as a provocation, is best defined as a state of “temporary insanity” that happens when the defendant is in a highly stressful situation. The defendant must not voluntarily bring on the stress, and it must be found that a reasonable person would also be shocked under the circumstances.
- Unconsciousness: A defendant who is found to have been unconscious when the crime was perpetrated is unable to do the act, thereby discrediting the homicide charge.
- Reasonable Mistake: To establish the needed mental state to kill, the defendant must have known that the killing was unlawful and unjustified. A reasonable mistake means that the defendant lacks such knowledge and, as a result, lacks the required mental state.
- Mistake of Fact: The mistake of fact must offset the required mental state for the homicide charges. Also, the defendant’s conduct must have been legal had the mistaken facts been actual. The mistake of fact for homicide charges is when the defendant erroneously thought that the defendant’s life was at stake, which promotes a defense of imperfect self-defense. A mistake regarding the law, however, is generally not a defense.
- Entrapment: A defense called entrapment may be available when a law enforcement agent or officer enables, causes, or solicits a person to commit a homicide that they would not otherwise have committed. Entrapment is one of the only exceptions to the rule that a mistake of law is not a defense to a criminal charge.
Should I Talk to an Attorney about My Criminally Negligent Homicide Case?
Contact a Texas criminal lawyer to find out how to fight this charge. A criminal lawyer can help you determine the best defenses available for your case. If you have to go to court, a lawyer is necessary to represent your best interests. Use LegalMatch to find the highest-rated lawyers in your area today.