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Understanding Murder in Lubbock, Texas

Murder in Lubbock is the offense of intentionally or knowingly causing a person’s death. The offense also includes killing a person while carrying out a dangerous act or committing a felony offense. The mental element for the offense consists of intention and knowledge. Therefore, murder committed unintentionally or accidentally may be charged as the lesser offense of manslaughter. However, the court may transfer the required intent if the accused intended to kill one person but ended up killing someone else.  In addition to the mental element required for the offense, the prosecution would also have to prove the physical element, which is that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the victim’s death. The prosecution must prove the mental and physical elements beyond reasonable doubt for a murder charge to result in a conviction. Like other criminal homicides in Lubbock, murder is a serious offense that carries severe penalties such as incarceration in state prison, fines, or both. 

What is First-Degree Murder in Lubbock?

First-degree murder in Lubbock City is referred to as Capital Murder, a capital felony offense in the city. It is the most severe form of murder, punishable with a death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The defendant’s status may also affect the sentences the court may eventually impose. Notably, the court may not impose the death penalty on juvenile offenders below 17 years old and mentally impaired offenders. Capital murder is not fundamentally different from second-degree murder. The primary distinguishing factor is the presence of aggravating circumstances, including:

  • To the defendant's knowledge, the victim was a peace officer or fireman who was on duty when the offense occurred.
  • The defendant paid someone to commit the offense or received payment to commit the offense.
  • The victim was under the age of ten.
  • The victim was a person operating a penal institution in which the defendant was incarcerated.
  • The defendant committed the offense while serving 99 years or life imprisonment for committing a previous murder.
  • The offense was an act of revenge against a member of the judiciary.
  • The defendant committed the crime in an attempt to escape a penal institution.
  • The defendant committed the offense against two or more people while perpetuating the same criminal scheme.
  • The defendant committed murder to facilitate kidnapping, burglary, robbery, arson, aggravated sexual assault, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat.

In addition to the presence of one of the aggravating elements, the prosecution must prove one of the following elements of murder:

  • The defendant intentionally and knowingly caused the victim’s death.
  • The defendant engaged in conducts that were dangerous to human life while committing a felony.
  • The defendant intended to cause serious bodily harm, which resulted in the victim’s death.

What is Second-Degree Murder in Lubbock?

Second-degree murder in Lubbock is a first-degree felony that occurs when a person’s intentional or negligent actions result in another person’s death. Lubbock does not officially recognize “second-degree murder.” The offense is simply referred to as murder and is punishable with imprisonment for a term between five years and 99 years, a fine not more than $10,000, or both. One of three elements must be present before a murder charge can be successful:

  • The defendant knowingly or intentionally caused the victim’s death. The essential factor in determining whether a death is a murder in Lubbock under this element is whether the defendant intended to kill the victim. It is impossible to read the defendant’s mind, so the court usually determines this through the defendant’s actions and surrounding circumstances. 
  • The defendant intended to cause serious bodily harm, or the defendant’s actions were dangerous to human life, and the action resulted in the victim’s death. It is enough that the defendant wanted to cause serious bodily injury, and it does not need to be to the victim specifically. Chapter 1 of the Texas Penal Code defines serious bodily injury as injuries that create a substantial risk of death, severe permanent disfigurement, or impair any function of any body part.
  • The defendant did something dangerous to human life to facilitate the commission of a felony.

What is Third-Degree Murder in Lubbock?

The City of Lubbock does not recognize third-degree murder. In some states, third-degree murder includes murders caused through some dangerous acts, in the course of non-violent felonies, or through indifference. The penalties for this offense would generally be more severe than those for manslaughter but less severe than second-degree murder.

What is Manslaughter in Lubbock?

Manslaughter in Lubbock is a second-degree felony. The mental element for the offense is recklessness, which means that the accused disregarded known risks while carrying out an action that could cause another person's death. Following the Texas Penal Code, Lubbock does not differentiate between voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular manslaughter. Instead, it has a blanket provision for manslaughter, and the offense is punishable by two to 20 years of imprisonment in state prison and a fine not more than $10,000. 

What is Vehicular Manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter in Lubbock is a second-degree felony that involves causing another person’s death through the reckless operation of a vehicle. The vehicle may be a car, lorry, or even a boat. Section 545.401 of the Texas Transportation Code also specifically criminalizes killing another person through participation in any form of vehicle speed or acceleration contest. A defendant convicted for vehicular manslaughter in Lubbock City may face between two and 20 years in state prison and a fine not more than $10,000. The defendant may also lose their driver’s license or may need to participate in an alcohol rehabilitation program if the crime was due to intoxication.

What is Voluntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter is killing a person during sudden combat or due to passion. The offense would be murder in many cases, except that the defendant was provoked to commit the crime. The Court would accept emotional excitement as a mitigating factor to reduce murder to manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter applies in cases where the defendant was provoked, the defendant used excessive force during defense, or sudden combat erupted between the parties. Also, if the defendant relies on provocation or excessive use of force during defense, the initial assault should have come from the deceased and not a third party. Though not typically termed as manslaughter offense in Texas, such a situation refers to a murder committed in the heat of the moment and is considered a second-degree felony. A conviction can attract two and 20 years and a fine up to $10,000. 

What is Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter refers to situations where the defendant mistakenly caused death to another person. It often includes situations where the defendant’s careless actions led to an accident that caused death. Lubbock does not recognize involuntary manslaughter. However, it recognizes some forms of it, such as intoxication manslaughter. Under Texas Law, a person is intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or more. Any manslaughter caused by a person’s intoxication may be referred to as involuntary manslaughter and attracts imprisonment between two and 20 years and a fine up to $10,000. Lubbock also recognizes the offense of criminally negligent homicide. The crime is a state jail felony. A person commits the offense if they cause another person’s death through criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is a mental element under Texas law, which means the person should have been aware that their actions can cause a risk to human life. Individuals found guilty of the offense can face imprisonment for 180 days to two years in a state jail and possibly a fine up to $10,000.

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

A criminal defense attorney has the technical skills and experience necessary to handle the defendant’s case. Murder is a serious offense that can have long-lasting and severe consequences. Depending on the case, the penalty may include the death penalty, life imprisonment, and fines up to $10,000. Any attorney the defendant approaches should have knowledge and experience with Texas criminal law and know the best defenses available to the defendant. A good criminal defense attorney will help the defendant through the entire process of the trial, potentially escaping the charge or at least reducing the penalty. Some defenses that the attorney may use include:

  • Insanity. A defendant who did not have the mental capacity to understand their actions when committing a crime may rely on this defense. If the defense attorney can prove this, the defendant would lack the mental element necessary to commit the crime. This defense fully absolves the defendant. However, the defendant may need to be committed to a mental institution.
  • Self-defense. Individuals have the right to employ the use of force when they are attacked. If a death occurs as a result of this and the force used by the defendant was reasonable, then the defense would fully absolve the defendant. A person may also use lawful force can also be used to defend property and other people. If the force used during defense was excessive, the defendant might still be guilty of manslaughter.
  • Intoxication. Involuntary intoxication will entirely absolve the defendant, while voluntary intoxication may only reduce murder to a manslaughter conviction.
  • Provocation. If the defendant committed the crime in the heat of passion, a murder charge might carry a lesser punishment.