Resorting to self-defense when you are threatened with or fear bodily harm from another is entirely understandable. In fact, our bodies have a natural adrenaline reaction in such situations that kicks in during the heat of the moment and fundamentally guides our fight-or-flight actions. While self-defense is often used as a defense against criminal assault charges, it is important to understand the legal definition of self-defense – what it is and what it is not. If you are facing assault charges, it’s in your best interest to contact a Killeen criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can.
To understand a claim of self-defense, it is important first to understand assault charges. In Texas, assault is defined as any of several different events, including:
- Intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly causing another to suffer bodily harm
- Intentionally or knowingly threatening another with imminent bodily harm
- Intentionally or knowingly causing physical interaction with another person when the perpetrator knows – or should reasonably believe – that person interacted with will interpret the action as provocative or otherwise offensive
If someone else is attempting to injure you or is actually harming you, it is only natural to fight back. At that point, most of us are guided by instinct. Self-defense is a valid defense, but only if you can show the court that you were actually being attacked or in danger of being attacked – or a reasonable belief of such harm - when you reacted. When it comes to self-defense claims, the bottom line is proving that you were, indeed, reacting to the other person’s aggression.
The Legal Elements of Self-Defense
When a Texas court goes about determining whether someone acted in self-defense or not, it looks for several necessary elements, including:
- Possessing a Reasonable Fear of Bodily Injury – The circumstances that led to your actions must be such that a reasonable person would have feared for his or her safety.
- Facing an Imminent Threat – If you believed that the other party’s use of threatening force put you and/or others in danger, it may justify your actions as self-defense.
- Using Proportional Force – Proportional force means that the amount of force you exert to protect yourself from the other person must be proportionate to that person’s actions or threats against you (or against others).
- Not Engaging in Provocation – For self-defense to apply, you must not have provoked the other person’s threatening or violent behavior in the first place.
If all of these elements apply, you could have a solid self-defense claim. It is worth pointing out that, while many states have what is known as a duty to retreat requirement before engaging in self-defense, Texas does not.