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Former Prosecutors Houston Criminal Defense Attorneys
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Texas Former Prosecutors

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Texas Penal Code Sec. 6.02. REQUIREMENT OF CULPABILITY

Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Foley provides commentary on the Texas Penal Code, Criminal Law, and Evidence.

Texas Penal Code  Sec. 6.02. REQUIREMENT OF CULPABILITY

Sec. 6.02 of the Texas law establishes the requirement of culpability for committing an offense. The law states that a person cannot be charged with an offense unless they engage in conduct with a specific mental state as defined by the offense. The culpable mental states recognized by the law are intentional, knowing, reckless, and criminal negligence.

In cases where the definition of an offense does not explicitly state a mental state, a culpable mental state is still necessary unless the definition clearly eliminates any mental element. This means that even if the law does not specify a required mental state, one is still needed unless explicitly exempted.

To establish criminal responsibility in such cases, the law states that intent, knowledge, or recklessness is sufficient. This means that demonstrating any of these mental states is enough to hold someone accountable for their actions.

The law also classifies culpable mental states based on their relative degrees, ranging from highest to lowest: intentional, knowing, reckless, and criminal negligence.

Furthermore, the law establishes that proving a higher degree of culpability than what is charged automatically proves the culpability charged. In other words, if someone is accused of a lower culpable mental state but evidence shows a higher mental state, the lower mental state is also considered proven.

It is important to note that municipal ordinances or orders from a county commissioners court cannot eliminate the requirement of a culpable mental state if the offense carries a fine exceeding the amount authorized by Section 12.23.

This summary of Sec. 6.02 of the Texas law provides an overview of the requirement of culpability and the different mental states necessary for committing an offense.

Sec. 6.02. REQUIREMENT OF CULPABILITY. (a) Except as provided
in Subsection (b), a person does not commit an offense unless he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence engages in conduct as the definition of the offense requires.
(b) If the definition of an offense does not prescribe a culpable mental state, a culpable mental state is nevertheless required unless the definition plainly dispenses with any mental
element.
(c) If the definition of an offense does not prescribe a culpable mental state, but one is nevertheless required under Subsection (b), intent, knowledge, or recklessness suffices to establish criminal responsibility.
(d) Culpable mental states are classified according to relative
degrees, from highest to lowest, as follows:
(1) intentional;
(2) knowing;
(3) reckless;
(4) criminal negligence.
(e) Proof of a higher degree of culpability than that charged constitutes proof of the culpability charged.
(f) An offense defined by municipal ordinance or by order of a county commissioners court may not dispense with the requirement of a culpable mental state if the offense is punishable by a fine
exceeding the amount authorized by Section 12.23.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994. Amended by: Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1219 (H.B. 970), Sec. 1, eff. September
1, 2005.

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