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Passion Murder vs. Premeditated Murder

The term “crime of passion” is often used by the media to describe certain sensational murder cases. The archetype of a crime of passion is the jealous spouse who arrives at home, finds their partner in bed with someone else, and then proceeds to shoot and kill them both in a fit of rage. So how exactly does Texas law deal with such situations?

The Different Types of Homicide in Texas

Many people often confuse the terms “homicide,” “murder,” and “manslaughter,” when each describes a different thing. A homicide simply refers one person killing another. Homicide is not necessarily a criminal act. Murder, in contrast, refers to “intentionally or knowingly” causing the death of an individual. Alternatively, murder can refer to act that is “intended to cause bodily injury” and results in a person’s death. If someone causes the death of a person in a manner that is “reckless,” but not intentional, that is considered manslaughter. Under certain specific circumstances—for example, killing a police officer or a child under the age of 10—a defendant can be charged with capital murder.

Murder is normally a first-degree felony in Texas. This carries a potential sentence of life imprisonment or at best a term of between five and 99 years in jail. However, if a defendant is convicted or murder, he or she may argue they caused the victim’s death “under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause.” Such an argument will not exonerate a person of murder. But if the defendant can prove it in fact was a “crime of passion,” the murder conviction is reclassified as a second-degree felony. This carries a lesser prison sentence of between two and 20 years.

Keep in mind, a crime of passion has a very specific definition in Texas. The murder statute defines it as “passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.” So in the hypothetical example suggested above—finding your spouse in bed with someone else—that would qualify as a crime of passion.

The key is that the homicide must be in direct and immediate response to the provocation. If a person catches their spouse cheating and then kills them a week later, that would not be considered a crime of “sudden passion.” Nor can a crime of passion include persons who were not parties to the provocation. In other words, opening fire on a crowd of people because a person is angry about their spouse’s cheating is not a crime of passion. (Indeed, it would be capital murder.)

How a Houston Internet Crimes Lawyer Can Help

Proving a crime of passion is not simply a matter of telling the police your side of the story and hoping for leniency. Prosecutors and police seldom give suspected murderers the benefit of the doubt. More to the point, Texas law places the burden on the defendant to prove a murder was a crime of sudden passion.

That is why if you or a family member are facing the possibility of criminal charges arising from a homicide, it is imperative you retain a qualified Houston sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. You need someone on your side who understands Texas law and how to put the best possible case forward on your behalf. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates for professional assistance.