Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony in Texas. There are many circumstances under which this charge can be applied, such as firing a gun into your front yard in response to a strange noise, or carelessly rewiring someone’s gas heater in a manner that causes an explosion. If you have been charged with criminally negligent homicide in Houston, or if you anticipate facing this charge, it is never too early to seek the assistance of an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer.
Elements of the Crime
Each of the below elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted of criminally negligent homicide in Texas:
- A deliberate act or omission
- undertaken with the mental state of criminal negligence
- the death of another person.
A “criminally negligent” act is defined as an act that represents a “gross deviation” from what a hypothetical “reasonable and prudent” person would do under the same circumstances. An act can be criminally negligent even if the actor was not aware of the risk involved, as long as he should have been aware of it. Although criminal negligence is through to be something more than ordinary negligence, the dividing line is fuzzy and indistinct
In Texas, criminally negligent homicide is a felony punishable by:
- 180 days to two years in jail or, if a vehicle was involved (as in a DWI), two to ten years.
- A fine of up to $10,000.
Every case is unique, because no two sets of facts are exactly the same. Below are some of numerous possible defenses that might apply based on particular case facts:
- Challenging criminal negligence: It is not always clear whether or not a given act constitutes criminal negligence under Texas law. Consequently, many prosecutions hinge on whether or not the defendant’s acts constituted criminal negligence, and in many cases this is ambiguous. A defense lawyer might argue, for example, that while talking on a cell phone while driving was ordinary negligence (thereby justifying a lawsuit), it did not rise to the level of criminal negligence.
- Challenging causation: To win a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s acts could have been reasonably foreseen to have caused the death of another. If you left an abandoned refrigerator in your backyard and a trespassing child climbed inside and suffocated during a game of “hide and seek”, for example, you might argue that you could not have reasonably foreseen the accident and thus did not cause it.
- Challenging intentionality: If you were involved in a fatal accident while driving the wrong way on a one-way street, for example, your lawyer might argue that your act of driving the wrong way was not “deliberate” because the one-way nature of the street was not clearly marked by road signs.
Houston criminal defense attorney Mario Madrid’s career has spanned nearly two decades, including time as both a prosecutor and a judge. He has been certified as a specialist in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and he has been inducted into the National College of DUI Defense Attorneys. If you have been arrested for criminally negligent homicide or a similar crime in the Houston are, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.