Overall, murder is the unlawful killing of another person with the intent to cause the death of that person. To be charged with first degree murder, the killing must be pre-meditated, deliberate, or occurred during a felony, as well as involve malice or intent.

How is Murder Defined in Texas?

In Texas, the most severe type of murder is called “capital murder”. So all other types of alleged unlawful killings that do not fit the category of capital murder, are simply called “murder.” But even though the other unlawful killings are called "murder", they are all charged as a first degree felony.

However, if a murder was committed due to a sudden fit of passion, then the murder can be charged as a second degree felony instead of a first degree felony. 

What Does “Sudden Fit of Passion” Mean?

A sudden fit of passion, or heat of the moment, means the person intentionally took someone’s life, but didn’t plan their death in advance. Instead, due to a sight or incident that occurred, the defendant was overwhelmed and killed the victim. An incident that can induce a fit of passion is when a spouse walks in on their partner cheating on them with another person.

If the defendant successfully argued that the murder was provoked by a sudden fit of passion,  then their murder charge will be downgraded to a second degree felony.

In Texas, are Murder and Manslaughter the same Charge?

No. In Texas, manslaughter is charged when the defendant caused another’s death because of their reckless actions. 

What is the Punishment for Murder in Texas?

A defendant convicted of murder, and charged as a first degree felony, can face a prison sentence ranging from 5 to 99 years in prison, life in prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

A defendant convicted of murder, and charged as a second degree felony, can face 2 to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Does Capital Murder and Murder have the same Criminal Punishment?

No. Even though capital murder and murder are can be charged as a first degree felony, a capital murder conviction can result in the death penalty whereas a murder conviction cannot result in the death penalty. 

Do I Need to Talk to a Lawyer? 

Yes, if you or a family member is facing second degree murder charges, contact a Texas criminal lawyer immediately. It’s important to know all your rights and possible defenses.