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Understanding Murder in Arlington, Texas

Murder in Arlington, Texas, refers to the deliberate killing of another or committing a dangerous act that results in the death of another individual. The offense also covers the killing of a person in the course of committing a felony such as burglary, kidnapping, or aggravated sexual assault. This offense is usually called felony murder in Arlington and may give rise to a murder charge even when the defendant did not intend to cause the victim's death. In this case, the defendant's intention to commit felony transfers automatically to the murder, making the defendant liable. 

What is First-Degree Murder in Arlington?

A first-degree felony murder charge involves a deliberate and premeditated killing. The offense emanates from causing severe bodily injury, which results in death or when the perpetrator kills a person while committing a felony. A defendant found guilty of murder in Arlington could face a sentence of five to 99 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. Texas law recognizes first-degree murder as capital murder. The offense is committed in any of the following circumstances:

  • The defendant killed a peace officer or fireman while carrying out their official duties.
  • The defendant killed the victim while committing a felony such as burglary, arson, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, obstruction or retaliation, or a terrorist attack.
  • The defendant killed the victim as consideration for payment or promise of payment.
  • The defendant killed the victim in the course of escaping from a penal institution.
  • The defendant killed the employee of a penal institution while being imprisoned.
  • The defendant killed more than one person.
  • The defendant killed the victim while being imprisoned for murder or capital murder.
  • The defendant killed the victim while imprisoned for aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, or aggravated robbery.
  • The defendant killed the victim, who was under the age of 10 years
  • The defendant killed a judge in retaliation for the judge's service.

The punishments for capital murder are usually very severe and include a minimum sentence of life in prison and the death penalty as maximum punishment. The court will, however, take into account the age of the victim while issuing a sentence. The defendant will usually serve a minimum sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole if the defendant is below the age of 18 years. Also, capital punishment (death penalty) will not be imposed on a defendant who is under the age of 18 years in Arlington.

What is Second-Degree Murder in Arlington?

Second-degree murder is known as just murder in Arlington. Generally, second-degree murder refers to the intentional killing of another without the element of premeditation. The offense usually arises from an impulsive action of the defendant that leads to the death of another individual. It is also second-degree murder if the defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury but ought to have known that such conduct could result in death. In order to prove a murder charge in Arlington, the prosecution must show that:

  • The defendant deliberately killed the victim.
  • The defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury, which ultimately led to the death of the victim.
  • The defendant, in the process of committing or attempting to commit a felony, performed a dangerous act that led to the death of the victim.

In Arlington, a murder charge may be reduced to a second-degree felony if it is shown that the act of the defendant was a crime of passion or done on impulse. The penalty for this offense is a prison sentence of two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

What is Third-Degree Murder in Arlington?

There is no legal recognition of third-degree murder in Arlington, Texas. Some states, however, recognize this class of murder as one committed without the element of intent. A third-degree murder, therefore, involves the unintentional killing of a person without the element of premeditation. Murder charges in this category offer a lower sentence since the killing was not premeditated but resulted from the negligent and reckless actions of the defendant. A similar offense to this charge in Arlington is criminally negligent homicide which refers to the killing of another due to the negligent actions of the defendant. To be convicted of this offense in Arlington, the defendant must owe a duty to the victim, and the victim must have died as a result of the defendant's negligent acts. The offense of criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony punishable by imprisonment for a period between 180 days to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.

What is Manslaughter in Arlington?

Manslaughter in Arlington is the criminal offense of recklessly causing the death of another individual. It involves the unlawful killing of another without the elements of premeditation, knowledge, or intent. The proof of the element of recklessness is essential to convict the defendant for manslaughter. This means that the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware of the risk that harm may result from the defendant's conduct but acted in deliberate disregard of that knowledge. Manslaughter charges are second-degree felonies which usually attract prison sentences of two to 20 years and fines of up to $10,000.

What is Vehicular Manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter is not defined in any specific statute in Texas, but charges may still be brought against the defendant through other laws in Texas. The offense of vehicular manslaughter arises in any situation where the defendant kills another while recklessly operating a vehicle or vessel. The offense also covers death that arises from negligent driving, racing on a highway, driving while intoxicated, or driving with a suspended license. The penalties for vehicular manslaughter in Arlington are severe and can lead to a criminal record, prison sentences, hefty fines, and the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license. Manslaughter resulting from reckless driving or racing on the highway is a second-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. However, manslaughter resulting from driving with a suspended license without having vehicle liability insurance is a class A misdemeanor. This is punishable by a prison term of one year and a $4,000 fine.

What is Voluntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter in Arlington involves the killing of another in the heat of passion or due to sudden provocation. The offense lacks the element of premeditation.  To prove voluntary manslaughter, the provocation resulting in the attack must have been so serious that a reasonable person would lose their normal state of mind. A charge of voluntary manslaughter may also arise from the unreasonable use of force in self-defense which causes the death of another. A defendant in a murder trial may be able to reduce the charge to voluntary manslaughter by proving that they acted in the heat of sudden passion or provocation. This reduces the charge to a second-degree felony which is punishable by imprisonment between two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

What is Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the defendant unintentionally causes the death of another due to recklessness, criminal negligence, or state of intoxication. The distinguishing factor between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter is the intention of the defendant. In contrast with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter involves the unintentional killing of a person. Involuntary manslaughter in Arlington covers offenses such as criminally negligent homicide and intoxication manslaughter. Intoxication manslaughter in Arlington is an independent offense that involves the killing of another by the defendant while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The offense is a second-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine up to $10,000. Other penalties include probation and 240 hours of community service.

What Type of Lawyer do I Need for a Murder Charge in Arlington?

A skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney can work with the defendant to prepare a defense strategy for their case. Such an attorney would have knowledge of all the possible defenses and ways to challenge the evidence of the prosecution. Some of the defenses which may be considered by the attorney include:

  • Justified Homicide: In Arlington, a person has the right to use force to prevent an attack against them or a third party. This is called a right of self-defense or defense of others. The defendant may also exercise this right against a trespasser who unlawfully interferes with the defendant's property. To rely on this defense, the defendant must have had a reasonable fear of death, physical harm, or bodily injury. The degree of force must also be reasonable and proportionate to the perceived attack.
  • Mistaken identity: It is a defense to show that the prosecutor has charged the wrong person with murder. The defendant must, however, have an alibi to show that the defendant was somewhere else at the time the crime was committed. The testimony of witnesses and forensic evidence of the prosecution may be challenged in court to achieve a successful defense.
  • Crime of passion: The defendant's culpability may be reduced by proving that the killing of another resulted from a sudden strong impulse or extreme emotions of anger. The crime must not be intentional or premeditated. A successful plea of this defense would reduce the murder charge to a lesser charge of manslaughter, with less severe penalties.
  • Exercise of duty: A law enforcement officer who kills another in the course of carrying out a lawful duty may rely on this defense. The killing is justified under the law, provided it was not done with unlawful intent, negligence, or recklessness.
  • Plea of insanity: This is a defense under Chapter 46 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The defendant must have suffered from a mental disease or defect at the time of the offense that caused the defendant not to know that the killing of another was wrong. If the defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, the law requires the defendant to be committed to a state mental health facility for treatment.