What Is Self Defense in Texas?

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Everyone who has ever watched a police procedural on television is familiar with the idea of self-defense. We know that it relieves a killer from responsibility for his or her violent act. On the other hand, we seldom stop to think about what goes into a successful self-defense claim.

Elements of a Self-Defense Claim

In Texas, persons claiming to have acted in self-defense are justified in using force against another when they reasonably believe the force is immediately necessary to protect themselves against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force. If the use of force is justified, then a self-defense claim will be successful.

“Reasonably,” in this context requires that the individual alleging self-defense knew or had reason to believe that the person defended against

  • Unlawfully and with force entered or attempted to enter his or her home, vehicle, business, or place of employment

  • Unlawfully and with force removed or attempted to remove him or her from home, vehicle, business, or place of employment

  • Was committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, or robbery

For the conduct to be found reasonable, persons claiming self-defense must also show that they did not provoke the person against whom the claim is made. Finally, the person making the claim must also not have been involved in criminal activity while engaging in the actions being used to support a self-defense claim.

When it is Not Self-Defense

Claiming an act of self-defense is not always a successful tactic. A court will deny the claim of justified use of force against another:

  • In response to verbal provocation alone

  • To resist a search by a lawful agent, even if the search is unlawful

  • If the individual making the claim consented to the use of force

  • If the individual making the claim provoked the other’s use of force unless he or she attempted to leave

  • If the parties were arguing while the other party was illegally carrying, possessing, or transporting a weapon

Self-Defense During an Arrest

It is occasionally possible to claim self-defense in some situations relating to an arrest. If the officer uses greater force than necessary to make an arrest or search and when the individual reasonably believes that the use of force is needed to protect him or herself against the officer’s excessive force.

Retreat is Not Required

A person who

  • Has a right to be present at the location

  • Who has not provoked the person against whom the force is used

  • Is not engaged in criminal activity while using the force

is not required to retreat from the dangerous situation under Texas law. In fact, in determining whether there was a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary, the finder of fact may not consider whether the individual claiming self-defense failed to retreat.

Call Us Today to Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Killeen

As you can see, making a successful claim of self-defense in Texas is a subtle and complicated activity. Brett Pritchard, a Killeen attorney who concentrates much of his practice in criminal defense, can help you work through the statutory maze of self-defense law in Texas. To schedule a case evaluation with an attorney, call our office today at 254-501-4040 or contact us online.

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