What is the difference between capital murder versus murder in Texas? From the perpetuation of the crimes to their punishments, Texas handles these charges very differently. While both are categorized as homicides under the Texas Penal Code, one is a first-degree felony while the other is a capital felony. Both charges are treated seriously by the state of Texas, with convictions resulting in a prison sentence. The biggest difference between these two charges is that capital murder can be punishable by the death penalty in Texas and has no possibility of parole, while a murder conviction could still potentially offer parole.


In Texas law, an individual has committed murder if (but not limited to): 

  • An individual intentionally or knowingly caused the death of an individual
  • An individual intends to cause serious bodily harm that results in someone’s death; 

Murder in Texas is punishable as a first-degree felony. A murder conviction could result in a prison sentence of 5 to 99 years. However, if it can be proved by expert legal counsel to have been committed as an “act of passion,” the sentence can be as short as 2 years and up to 20 years in prison. It is further outlined in the Texas Penal Code Sec. 19.02.


(b)  A person commits an offense if he:

(1)  intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;

(2)  intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual;  or

(3)  commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.” 

~ from Texas Penal Code § 19.02


An individual can be charged with capital murder if (but not limited to):

  • The murder was committed while also committing or attempting to commit another felony (ie. kidnapping, arson);
  • The victim is a police officer or firefighter performing their duties;
  • The murder was committed in exchange for money;
  • The victim is under 10 years old

The potential consequences of a capital murder conviction in Texas include life in prison or the death penalty. For individuals over the age of 18, life in prison is the minimum sentence without the possibility of parole. Texas is one of 27 states that authorizes the death penalty for crimes that are seen as particularly horrendous. In order to fight for rights in the courtroom, ensure that you have a criminal defense attorney with the experience and expertise to work with you through the entire process. The Texas Penal Code Sec. 19.03 outlines it in further detail.


(a)  A person commits an offense if the person commits murder as defined under Section 19.02(b)(1) and:

(1)  the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;

(2)  the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat under Section 22.07(a)(1), (3), (4), (5), or (6);

(3)  the person commits the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration;

(4)  the person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;”

~ from Texas Penal Code § 19.03


Have you or a loved one been arrested and charged for murder or capital murder in Texas? If so, you should have an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side to help you fight these serious charges. The reputable, skilled legal counsel at Erskine Law can represent you with a strong defense. Brian Erskine has years of success defending clients against a variety of charges, including murder; he is committed to helping his clients reach the best possible outcome in their cases. Contact board-certified attorney Brian Erskine of Erskine Law at any time to discuss how he can assist you and your case.