Killeen Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter Defense Attorneys

Tough defense when your freedom is on the line in Harker Heights, Copperas Cove and throughout Central Texas

In Texas, murder or homicide allegations are the most severe charges you can face in a court of law. It’s not hyperbole to say that your life could hang in the balance. Murder is typically the only crime for which prosecutors will consider Texas’ capital punishment statute – the death penalty. Therefore, the urgency of utilizing every legal option available to you cannot be overstated. Often, charges of homicide or murder means facing public judgement before ever stepping into the courtroom.

The Killeen criminal defense attorneys at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm understand that you are innocent until proven guilty in court. As a former prosecutor turned defense lawyer, Mary Beth Harrell has an inside knowledge of both sides of the courtroom, and has dedicated her career to protecting the rights of her clients, tenaciously fighting felony charges and convictions and – most importantly – clearing your name and reputation.

What are the 4 different types of homicide charges in Texas?

Homicide isn’t a specific crime in itself, but rather an umbrella term that encompasses the crimes of intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence causing the death of an individual. The Texas state penal code allows for four different types of homicide charges.

Criminally negligent homicide

When someone causes the death of another because of criminal negligence or recklessness, they can be charged with criminally negligent homicide. A common example of this is an accidental murder, like when a driver is speeding 50mph in a 25mph zone, hitting and killing a pedestrian. When the speeding is the clear cause of the accident, the driver can be charged with criminally negligent homicide.

What makes this the least severe type of homicide is that there was no intent to hurt anyone. The charges are meant to focus on the offender’s knowledge of the risks of their actions, and proving the connection between their actions and the death of the other person. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in jail and fines up to $10,000.


Manslaughter is when a person recklessly causes the death of another. It’s not a premeditated act, which makes it less than murder, but it can be provoked or sometimes intentional, which makes it more than negligent homicide. There are two types of manslaughter:

  • Voluntary manslaughter. You may sometimes hear this referred to as a “heat of passion” killing or something similar. Voluntary manslaughter is typically intentional, but provoked by rage, anger or other desperate emotions. It’s not the result of a premeditated plan.
  • Involuntary manslaughter. This is when a person’s reckless actions result in killing another person without intention. A common example of this is causing an accident with fatalities while driving under the influence (may also be called “intoxication manslaughter”).

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, and conviction can result in up to 20 years in prison along with steep financial penalties.


Murder is intentionally and knowingly causing the death of an individual. You can also be charged with murder in Texas if you intend to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act that results in the death of another person. A person can also be charged with murder if, in the act of committing a felony, another individual is killed due to the offender’s actions. The biggest difference between murder and manslaughter is intention to cause harm.

Murder is a first-degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years in prison, plus heavy fines.

Depending on the circumstances, the state can charge a person with murder or elevate the charges to capital murder.

Capital murder

This is the highest level of crime with which one can be charged, and we cannot stress enough the important of having a criminal defense attorney on your side. A homicide becomes capital murder in extenuating circumstances, which include:

  • Committing murder in the process of carrying out a kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat
  • Committing murder while escaping or attempting to escape a penal institution
  • Killing more than one person during a criminal act
  • Killing an employee of a prison or jail while incarcerated
  • Knowingly killing a police officer or firefighter on duty
  • Murdering a person under 10 years of age
  • Receiving payment or paying someone to commit murder

A conviction for capital murder can take away everything you have. This is a capital felony, and the maximum punishment in Texas is the death penalty. Texas leads the nation in number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and the average time on Death Row for inmates before execution is nearly 11 years.

The murder defense attorneys at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm are courtroom-tested and provide aggressive, tough representation when you’re battling for your life and your freedom. Don’t leave anything up to chance – we can help you fight.

What is intoxication manslaughter?

State law handles alcohol-related homicides separately, under intoxication assault and manslaughter statutes. You may have heard of vehicular manslaughter, which typically falls under criminal negligence or manslaughter. It includes offenses like reckless driving that result in the death of another. However, if a death results due to negligence as a result of intoxication or drunk driving, a person may be charged with intoxication manslaughter instead.

These charges don’t apply to only drunk driving. It also applies if a person is intoxicated and causes a fatality by causing an accident when operating an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride or assembles a mobile amusement ride.

Intoxication manslaughter is a felony, and conviction can result in penalties of two to 20 years in prison. If extenuating circumstances apply, like a first responder was killed in the accident, you may face life in prison. You’ll also face all the typical DUI charges.


How our Killeen homicide defense attorneys can help you

We know that when you’re facing murder or manslaughter charges, you’re in the fight of your life. Our attorneys will step in right at the beginning of your case, ensuring your rights are protected and you receive fair treatment. We put our huge network of resources to work for you, investigating every possible avenue for defense. It’s important to remember that no case is hopeless – the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and they must prove guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt. This a very high standard, and our legal team is ready for the challenge.

Some of the strategies we employ for our clients, depending on the circumstances, include:

  • Mistaken identity. If you have a credible alibi for when the crime was committed, we can challenge the validity of witness testimony and forensic evidence.
  • Self-defense. A killing may be legally justified if it was in self-defense, or if you legitimately believed your life was in danger at the time. We can prove that you used reasonable force due to fear of death, harm or injury.
  • Exercise of duty. Often, cases of homicide by law enforcement are justifiable. We work to show that police officers acted without recklessness, negligence, or criminal intent.
  • Accident. An accidental killing while performing a legal activity is not grounds for murder. We can challenge the charges and work to have them reduced or dropped.

The collateral consequences of a homicide conviction are severe and life-changing. Talk to us today to find out how we can help you.

Aggressive Killeen homicide and murder defense attorneys

If you’re facing charges or investigation for manslaughter or murder, your first priority must be defending your rights. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of their rights under the law, especially upon arrest. The criminal defense attorneys at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm start working for you right at the beginning and fiercely defend you in court. Let us help. Contact us today at 254-680-4655 or by filling out our contact form. We have offices in Killeen, Harker Heights, and handle in-custody visits for clients who cannot come to us.

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