Murder Defense

Contact an Attorney

Murder Defense

Assaultive offenses generally include assault, battery, domestic (or family) violence, aggravated assault, and homicide. If you are charged or arrested for murder you need to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The lawyers at Gunter and Bennett well versed in assaultive offenses. Please note that the criminal laws in Texas involve a separate process when a juvenile is charged with a crime.


Of course, the highest level of assaultive offenses is homicide which includes the offenses: murder, capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. These are very serious crimes. Generally, murder is where a person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of a person. A person may be charged with capital murder where they intentionally or knowingly cause the death of a person in the course of committing another offense such as robbery, burglary, kidnapping (just to name a few). Manslaughter is charged when a person recklessly causes the death of another. Finally, criminally negligent homicide is just that, homicide that is caused by criminal negligence.

Punishment for Murder

Murder is a first degree felony punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Capital murder is considered a capital felony and is punishable by either life in prison or death. The good news is that there is no fine if you are convicted of capital murder. Manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony and is punishable by 180 days to 2 years in a state jail facility and up to a $10,000 fine. If your case is dismissed it is probably eligible to be expunged. We always encourage our clients to pursue an expunction if they are eligible. An expunction allows you to legally deny that you were ever charged or arrested for a crime. It is a very worthwhile procedure and one that we can help you with.

Questions and Answers in navigating murder charges

First degree murder is the most serious of all the different degrees of murder. Texas does not officially refer to first-degree murder as “first-degree murder.” Rather, it is referred to as capital murder and is charged as a first-degree felony punishable by up to a lifetime in prison or the death penalty. 

In the state of Texas, second degree murder is referred to simply as “murder” and is charged as a first-degree felony unless the defendant is able to prove that the act was committed as a crime of passion

There are only three states in America that have third-degree murder laws — Minnesota, Florida, and Pennsylvania — and each has its own set of laws regarding what is considered third-degree murder. Because Texas is not one of these states, you cannot be charged with third-degree murder.

  • Justifiable homicide – Not all murders amount to crimes, particularly when they can be justified. One of the most common legal justifications for the killing of another person is self-defense or the defense of others. These justifications are difficult to prove, and they require defendants to show that reasonable force was used in response to a reasonable fear or death or bodily harm, or a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm to another. Other justified homicides may include exercises of duty, such as when law enforcement and other public officers use reasonable force without unlawful intent.

  • Reduced culpability – Murder charges are structured in a way that different charges have different levels of culpability. This means that the level of criminal liability will vary from charge to charge. For example, first-degree murder is considered the most serious criminal charge with the greatest level of criminal liability because it involves willful and premeditated murder. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, is an intentional murder that is not premeditated or planned. While all murders are culpable homicides, not all culpable homicides can be charged as murder. When pursuing reduced charges as part of a murder defense, attorneys may focus on elements such as intent. Manslaughter charges, for instance, involve recklessly or, in some cases, negligently causing the death of another, and they pose less severe penalties than murder charges.

  • False confessions – Law enforcement is zealous about making arrests in murder cases. While this is warranted considered public risks, their zealousness can lead to inappropriate or coercive interrogation tactics, violations of procedure, and violations of civil rights. When a confession can be proven as false, coerced, or involuntary, it may be excluded from evidence.

  • Unlawful searches and seizures – When law enforcement officers conduct unlawful searches that allow them to secure evidence used against a murder defendant, or detain or arrest a suspect, they violate procedure and civil rights. As such, evidence obtained through unlawful searches and seizures can be thrown out, which makes the prosecution’s task of proving guilt much more difficult.

  • Mistaken identity – Statistics show that mistaken identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, witness testimony is not always reliable. After all, witnesses may see one person when other witnesses see another. Time and other factors can also alter memories. For example, time may cause a witness to remember a green car as a blue car. Arguing mistaken identity rests on showing that identification is unreliable and that there is reasonable doubt as to the identity of the real offender.


In Texas, a crime of passion refers to a crime that is committed in the heat of the moment, often as a result of strong emotions such as anger, jealousy, or fear. A crime of passion is typically committed on the spur of the moment, without premeditation or planning.

Crimes of passion are not a distinct criminal offense in Texas or any other state. Instead, they are a type of defense that a defendant may raise in a criminal case. For example, if a person is charged with murder, they may argue that they committed the crime in the heat of the moment and were not acting with premeditation or intent to kill.

It’s important to note that the defense of crime of passion is not a complete defense to a criminal charge. In order for the defense to be successful, the defendant must show that they acted in the heat of the moment and that they did not have time to cool off and think about their actions.

Meet our experienced criminal defense lawyers in Austin, Texas poised to provide guidance, direction, and solutions for your murder charges.

Contact us today for a free consultation