a man in handcuffs

Manslaughter Defense Attorney in Fort Worth, Texas

A family sets out on their annual Thanksgiving hunting trip. For the first time, their teenage boys, who have spent the whole year practicing gun safety, are finally able to carry their own rifles. The pride on their faces makes their parents happy, and the whole trip seems to be going off without a hitch.

By the end of the trip, each of the boys has taken down a buck, but Uncle Joe, who is also on the trip, hasn’t shot anything. Unable to hide his disappointment and jealousy at being bested by boys who are new to hunting, he decides to show off some of his shooting skills. He begins doing a series of intricate drills with his rifle, all of which he has learned from his many years as a war reenactor. His overwhelming jealousy and embarrassment became a distraction and he carelessly failed to put the safety on, and one minor slip causes the weapon to fire. It hits the boys’ mother, causing a life-threatening injury. Help isn’t able to get there in time and the mother passes. 

The boys’ hunting trip turns from a dream to a nightmare. The family is struggling with the loss of a loved one, and Uncle Joe is facing the criminal charge of manslaughter. Entire lives were destroyed in that single, tragic moment.

The Harsh Reality of Manslaughter in the State of Texas

There is nothing more heartbreaking than the sudden loss of a loved one. While some losses may give family and friends time to say goodbye, sudden losses rob the deceased’s loved ones of this chance. Add a criminal charge into the mix and the entire situation gets drastically worse.

Individuals who are charged with manslaughter face an uphill battle.  Not only has the victim’s family already assumed guilt of the accused, such as in our story about Uncle Joe, but the consequences for a conviction are devastating. Prison time, hefty fines, and a shredded reputation make Texas one of the worst places in the United States to face a homicide charge. It is important to have a Texas criminal defense lawyer on your side who has had years of experience working with manslaughter cases. In Fort Worth, Texas, and the surrounding areas, the team at Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC can help!

Are You Facing Manslaughter Charges in Texas?

We work around the clock to ensure that our clients understand what to expect from their case, build a solid defense, and ensure that our clients are being treated with respect. We know that these kinds of situations are emotionally charged and often cause the defendant’s voice or side of the story to go unheard. We do not allow our clients to get bullied into silence or to accept a punishment that they don’t deserve. Here is more information on our violent crimes defense lawyers.

What Is Manslaughter?

Texas Penal Code Section 19.04 describes manslaughter as the unintentional cause of death of another person due to the recklessness of one’s actions. In manslaughter, there was no intention to kill or harm another individual but there has to be evidence that shows that the defendant was aware that their actions were dangerous but disregards this risk anyways.  The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all circumstances as viewed from the defendant’s standpoint.

For example, in the story of the family going hunting, the uncle, who had years of experience handling firearms, should have known that it is dangerous to fool around with them. Despite the knowledge of what could happen if the firearm went off, he continued to horse around anyways. This resulted in the firearm discharging and killing another individual. 

Are There Different Types of Manslaughter in the State of Texas?

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Yes. There is another type of manslaughter that is recognized in the state of Texas known as intoxication manslaughter. This type of manslaughter occurs when a DWI accident results in the death of another person

Is There Involuntary Manslaughter in the State of Texas?

No. Texas is one of the only states that does not recognize involuntary manslaughter. Instead, involuntary manslaughter is considered criminally negligent homicide and is considered a state felony

Criminally negligent homicide is different from manslaughter, because there was no intention of killing an individual, but the person also owed an explicit duty to the victim. 

For example, if a nurse was checking on a patient and failed to notice that their oxygen supply had gotten disconnected because she was hurrying through her list of patients, as it was the end of her shift, and that patient died, then she could be charged with criminal negligence. In these cases, it needs to be shown that the defendant should have been aware of the risks of their behavior or omission of behavior but wasn’t. If a reasonable person would have acted differently given the same circumstances, then typically the defendant will be considered negligent.

Criminal Penalties for Manslaughter in the State of Texas

In the State of Texas, manslaughter is considered a second-degree felony. Individuals convicted of this crime can expect the following consequences:

  • Up to 20 years in prison
  • Fines of up to $10,000

Conviction of an intoxication manslaughter charge will also include a driver’s license suspension ranging from 180 days to 2 years. In some cases, hours of community service, at least 240 hours, or probationary community service may also be included in the sentence.

Defenses to Charges of Manslaughter in Texas?

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For an individual to be convicted of manslaughter, it must be proven that the individual was aware that their actions or inactions were reckless and could cause a serious accident or the death of another person. 

To disprove the prosecution’s claim that the defendant was aware of their action/inaction and their consequences, the following defenses can be used:

The Defendant Was Insane

If the defendant admits they committed the offense but cannot be held responsible because they are insane due to a mental disorder or defect, then there was no way that they could have known what they were doing was wrong. For this defense to work, it must be proven that the defendant was in an extremely delusional state” that caused them to misperceive the nature of their actions or that they believed that their actions were obeying the law.

The Defendant Was Using Self-Defense

Self-defense can be a viable option in some cases of manslaughter in the State of Texas because of a law known as the “Stand Your Ground Law.” A homeowner is not obligated to retreat before they can use deadly force against an intruder on their property in self-defense.

However, there are limits to this defense. The individual must be at a place legally, (whether it is their home, a place of business, or their car,) they must have been provoked (not the one initiating the confrontation), and they must be reasonably afraid for their life given the situation and the circumstances.

Are you Facing Manslaughter Charges in Texas?

If you have been charged with manslaughter or intoxication manslaughter in the State of Texas, then you will want the best Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys on your side. The prosecution will be gunning hard for you to try and get you the highest sentence possible. 

Our team will ensure that you have a strong defense, to show what happened during the incident to either dismiss your case and charge or lower the sentence. Contact our team today to schedule a free consultation to go over the facts of your case. 

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Manslaughter FAQS

What Is the Average Sentence for Manslaughter in Texas?

The average prison sentence for a conviction on a manslaughter charge is between 2-20 years. It also may carry a fine of up to $10,000.

What Is the Burden of Proof for Manslaughter

As with all manslaughter cases, it is the burden of the prosecution to prove that the defendant somehow caused the death of another individual. This has to be done through presenting evidence that shows that the result of the defendant’s actions led to the death of the victim.