Most people assume that homicide is a crime, but the law considers any taking of a human life by another person to be a criminal offense. People die each day as the result of automobile accidents without the responsible drivers being arrested. Negligence is a deviation from an accepted standard of reasonable care. Slippery roads, traffic congestion, driver distraction and driver error can all contribute to an accident occurring through a negligent act.
Texas lawmakers enacted Texas Penal Code Section 19.05 making it a crime to cause the death of another person by criminal negligence. Prosecutors will frequently charge the driver of a motor vehicle with criminally negligent homicide when they believe the driver’s actions included:
Negligent homicide places a burden on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a death resulted from a deliberate act that could have been foreseen as placing another person’s life in jeopardy. The difference between simple negligence and criminally negligent homicide is that the offender could foresee that an act placed someone in jeopardy. For example, a motorist who sees pedestrians crossing the street but runs through a red light could be charged with criminally negligent homicide.
Criminally negligent homicide is a felony offense punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and a fine that cannot exceed $10,000. Depending upon the facts of a particular case, prosecutors can charge a person with using a deadly weapon even if the weapon is a motor vehicle. This increases the potential penalties to two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The prosecutor has the burden of proving that a person’s actions caused a substantial and unjustifiable risk that another person could be injured or killed. Experienced criminally negligent homicide attorneys know that accidents happen in which people die, but a person’s death does not automatically mean the driver at fault is guilty of criminally negligent homicide.
A criminally negligent homicide lawyer might develop a strategy that challenges the prosecutor’s presentation of the facts surrounding the death of the victim. Failure to exercise reasonable care might be negligent, and it might subject a person to civil liability for causing another person’s death. If the prosecutor cannot prove each element of the case, the accident may be negligent without being criminal.
If you are charged with criminally negligent homicide, you need the services of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who has years of trial experience. Houston criminal defense lawyer Rand Mintzer has the skills and courtroom experience to take on the most difficult cases. Call 713-862-8880 to set up a free initial consultation with Rand Mintzer, Attorney at Law.