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Texas Second Degree Murder Laws

The crime of second degree murder, simply called "murder" in Texas, is a serious crime with harsh penalties. Second degree murder is a crime involving a death that resulted from the accused's wrongful acts. These include deaths that occur during the commission of a crime, or on account of the accused's recklessness. The following chart includes information about the Texas crime of second degree murder, including potential defenses and penalties.

Statute Texas Murder Statute (Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 19)
Elements of Second Degree Murder

Texas does not officially use the term "second degree murder" which can sometimes be a little bit confusing. Instead, the equivalent in Texas is known as just "murder," which is a first degree felony. To convict a defendant of murder, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant intentionally and knowingly caused the death of another person;
  • The defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury and committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life and this act caused the death of an individual; or
  • The defendant committed or attempted to commit a felony (other than manslaughter) and in performing that felony, committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life and this act caused the death of an individual.
Defenses Against Second Degree Murder Charges
  • Lack of intent
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Insanity
  • Intoxication
  • Self-defense
  • "Heat of passion" defense (i.e. The defendant was provoked to commit the crime by fear, rage, terror or some other extreme emotion.)

NOTE: If none of the criteria are met, the defendant may still be found guilty of a lesser homicide charge.

See Second Degree Murder Defenses for more information.

Penalties and Sentences

Murder in Texas is a first degree felony. This charge will typically carry a sentence of between five and 99 years in a state prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000. At the sentencing stage of the defendant's trial, the defendant can raise the issue of having committed the crime in the "heat of passion" arising from an adequate cause. If the defendant is found to have been in the heat of passion at the time of the homicide, then the charge will be reduced to second degree felony. A second degree felony carries a sentence of between two and twenty years in a state prison and a fine of no more than $10,000.

See Second Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing to learn more.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources:

Charged With Homicide in Texas? You Will Want Legal Counsel

Any criminal charges that arise from the loss of human life needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness. Professional assistance in preparing your defense is absolutely necessary since Texas juries can be tough and your best defenses may involve complicated procedural and evidentiary issues. Contact an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney today.

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