defendant in courtroomThis is the next article in my series on the handling of felony charges in Austin, Texas. My previous post discussed what to expect when charged with a third-degree felony in our state. Understanding the process which one is facing, as well as the potential penalties, is important to making informed decisions as to a defense strategy. An experienced attorney can assist you in making such decisions. In this article I will discuss the handling of the most serious crimes in our state – capital murder charges. Given the extreme nature of such charges, it is vital that a defendant have qualified counsel. I have been practicing law since 1995 and am Board Certified in Criminal Defense by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.

Understanding what constitutes a “capital offense” in Texas

A Texas defendant can face capital murder charges, if they are found to have committed murder under Texas Penal Code 19.02 and certain aggravating factors are present. A defendant can be convicted of murder if the following elements are proven at trial:

  • They intentionally or knowingly caused an individual’s death, or;
  • They intended to cause serious bodily injury and committed an act clearly dangerous to human life which caused an individual’s death; or
  • They committed or attempted to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and they caused the death of an individual in their attempt to commit the crime or in their attempt to flee from arrest; or
  • They knowingly manufactured or delivered a controlled substance included in Penalty Group 1-B under the Health and Safety Code and an individual dies as a result of using the substances

The murder charge can be elevated to a first-degree capital offense if any of the following aggravating factors listed in Texas Penal Code 19.03 are present. Examples of these aggravating factors include knowledge that the victim was a police officer or a fireman or murdering such individuals while they are in the course of their duties. Other examples include situations in which more than one person was murdered as part of a single criminal act, situations in which the victim was less than fifteen years old, situations in which the victim was a judge or former judge.

Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a defendant must be found guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, the Amendment also requires that the presence of the aforementioned aggravating factors also be found, by the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury does not find the presence of aggravating factors, then they may still issue a verdict convicting a defendant of non-capital murder or of a lesser offense. If a defendant is convicted of capital murder then they will either receive life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

Defending against capital murder charges in Austin or other Texas areas

The approach to defending against capital murder charges will always depend on the specifics of the situation. Defense claims may involve self-defense, the presence of search and seizure issues, the obtaining of improper eyewitness identifications by law enforcement, etc. How to approach any given situation will depend on the specifics of the case and no two situations are the same. Mounting the strongest defense possible will be vital to the handling of such charges. Retaining an experienced and qualified attorney is vital.

I am an Austin criminal defense lawyer who is able to assist with death penalty cases. I believe that everyone is entitled to effective representation, respect, and I devote my practice to protecting the rights of the accused. Contact us online or by telephone today to schedule an initial consultation. My office also serves the cities of Rollingwood, Round Rock, Elgin, Jonestown, Manor, Bee Cave, Lago Vista, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Creedmoor, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander, and San Marcos, Texas.