Texas Penal Code 19.05 – Criminally Negligent Homicide
WHAT IS CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE IN TEXAS?
The Texas law against criminally negligent homicide prohibits causing another’s death through an act of negligence. Even if causing another’s death is unintentional, a person may be charged with criminally negligent homicide when the person’s intentional acts rise to such a “gross deviation” from reasonable societal standards of care.
- What is criminal negligence in Texas? Texas Penal Code Section 6.03 defines criminal negligence as when a person ought to have been aware that the conduct created a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death, and failing to perceive the risk was a gross deviation from an objectively ordinary standard of care under the circumstances.
WHAT IS THE CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Penal Code § 19.05. CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE.
(a) A person commits an offense if causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence.
(b) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE IN TEXAS?
Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in a state jail facility. If a person uses a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense, or in flight therefrom, criminally negligent homicide is a third degree felony, punishable by two to ten years in prison.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE IN TEXAS?
Criminally negligent homicide, a state jail felony, carries between 180 days and two years in a state jail facility, and up to a $10,000 fine. If a deadly weapon was used during the offense or in flight therefrom, it is punishable as a third degree felony, ranging from two to ten years in prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE IN TEXAS?
A person charged with criminally negligent homicide may be eligible for probation after a conviction, or deferred adjudication without a conviction, for a period between two and five years, with a possibility of extending supervision for up to ten years. If charged as a third degree felony, the period of community supervision may not exceed ten years.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE IN TEXAS?
In addition to the justification defenses, a person charged with criminally negligent homicide may attempt to negate at least one of the elements the State must prove at trial. Typically, a person charged with criminally negligent homicide argues he or she lacked the requisite intent to commit the crime.
- Can causing another’s death during a traffic accident be charged as criminally negligent homicide in Texas? It is possible for a traffic crash to rise to the level of criminally negligent homicide, if the person’s conduct is such a gross deviation from the standard of ordinary care.In Vitela v. State, the defendant was convicted of criminally negligent homicide after crashing into a tree, killing a passenger in his car. The speed limit on the winding country road was 15 miles per hour. The black box from the defendant’s car showed he was going 115 miles per hour five seconds before taking the curve, and hit the tree going over 60 miles per hour. The appellate court affirmed his conviction, given the substantial and unjustifiable risk under the circumstances.
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE IN TEXAS?
The limitation period for criminally negligent homicide is three years.
CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE IN TEXAS
In Texas, a person cannot be charged with criminally negligent homicide by accidentally killing another. The act that caused the other person’s death has to be intentional. For example, an accidental discharge of a gun alone is generally not criminally negligent homicide in Texas. But speeding through a school zone while texting may constitute a “gross deviation” from an objective standard of care, resulting in a criminally negligent homicide charge if another is killed.
TEXAS CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE COURT CASES
The case law in Texas regarding criminally negligent homicide shows the variety of conduct that may constitute an offense.
- In Tello v. State, the defendant was towing some dirt in a homemade trailer when the trailer unhitched from his truck, and struck and killed a pedestrian. There were no safety chains, which would have prevented the trailer from detaching from the truck. The ball was not properly attached to the defendant’s bumper, and the hitch was bent. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, holding the defendant’s conduct was a gross deviation from the standard of ordinary care, and constituted a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death.
- In Chambless v. State, the defendant was convicted of criminally negligent homicide after firing his rifle several times from his porch in the dark, with the intent to scare away what he thought was a loose dog. He turned on the lights, and he had accidentally shot and killed his neighbor, whom he did not know was outside on his property. Because he used a deadly weapon, it was enhanced to a third degree felony. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed.
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WE FIGHT FOR DISMISSAL
WE FIGHT FOR DISMISSAL
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15
Driving facts involved failing to maintain a single lane and speeding. Client refused breath test and forced law enforcement to obtain search warrant for blood. Blood test result was not used after challenge from Defense, and State waived and abandoned charge.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client was a college student, worried about the collateral consequences of an alcohol offense. After negotiation and review of the traffic stop, the case was dismissed. Client received no criminal conviction. The charge was later expunged and deleted from client’s record.
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15+
Client was involved in minor accident. Client was at fault in accident. A young executive, client was concerned that a criminal conviction for DWI would result in termination. After review of the traffic stop, it was clear the officer lacked probable cause for arrest. State eventually dismissed DWI charge. Client received no criminal conviction.
Client, a military veteran, was facing up to one year in jail. State could not prove intoxication by alcohol, and was prepared to proceed on loss of use by marijuana. After challenging the State to prove that marijuana was ingested at or near time of driving, and that marijuana impaired client’s driving, the State dismissed the case on the day of trial.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Driving facts involved a false claim by police that taillight was out. After challenging the reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, the State was forced to dismiss the case when video did not match police report. Client has since expunged arrest, and has no criminal record.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client is a public school teacher and faced immediate termination upon conviction. The facts of the case were bad. State was unwilling to budge in negotiation, and matter was set for trial – the last shot at avoiding a conviction and preserving client’s livelihood. State was forced to dismiss on day of trial. Client has no criminal record, and has since expunged the DWI arrest.
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