When Can I Claim Self-Defense When Facing Criminal Charges in Texas?

hands in handcuffs

Self-defense is recognized as a valid defense strategy under Texas Penal Code § 9.31. However, a defendant can claim self-defense when facing specific criminal charges under limited circumstances.

Consult with a Belton criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges and considering claiming self-defense to avoid a conviction.

How to Prove Self-Defense in Texas?

Under Texas law, you need to prove the following elements to successfully claim self-defense:

  1. You used an adequate amount of force;

  2. You reasonably believed that the use of force was immediately necessary;

  3. You did not provoke the other person; and

  4. You were not attempting to commit a crime when using force.

Texas law defines “self-defense” as a justified use of force against another person when you reasonably believe that an adequate amount of force is “immediately necessary” to protect yourself or stop that person’s use of unlawful force or commission of a violent crime.

In Texas, citizens can also invoke self-defense when defending themselves at home or defending their property. This is known as the Castle Doctrine.

Texas has “stand your ground” laws, which means you are not legally required to retreat before using force. Under certain circumstances, you can also use force against another person to defend other people, including your family.

When Can You Claim Self-Defense in Texas?

Self-defense is a defense strategy that can be used to defend oneself against allegations of assault and other violent crimes. A defendant can claim that they acted in self-defense to avoid a conviction for a violent crime.

Using force to defend yourself may be justified when an adequate amount of force was used to stop another person’s use of unlawful force.

Self-defense is often claimed by defendants facing the following criminal charges:

  • Assault

  • Aggravated assault

  • Murder

  • Manslaughter

  • Domestic violence

Does Texas Have the Castle Doctrine?

Yes. Under the Castle Doctrine in Texas, you have a right to defend yourself against the unlawful use of force when you are at home, work, or in your vehicle.

Under the Castle Doctrine, self-defense may be deemed reasonably necessary if the actor did not provoke the victim and was not engaging in any criminal activity at the time of the incident.

However, you must also prove that you had a reasonable belief that:

  • The other person was unlawfully breaking into or forcibly entering your home, work, or automobile; or

  • The other person had the intent to unlawfully remove you from your home, work, or vehicle.

Under the Castle Doctrine, the use of force is also reasonable and justified if you reasonably believe that the person against whom the force is used is committing:

  1. Robbery or aggravated robbery

  2. Sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault

  3. Murder

  4. Aggravated kidnapping

Note: Whether or not the use of force in self-defense is justified depends on the amount of force used against the other person.

What is Considered an Adequate Amount of Force?

The amount of force used when defending yourself has to be adequate and reasonable. In other words, you must prove that the amount of force was proportionate to the threat of unlawful force against you.

When you use an unreasonable amount of force, your attempts to claim self-defense may be unsuccessful. For example, let’s imagine that John shoves Mike and causes him to fall to the ground but does not threaten further harm. Mike pulls out a gun and shoots John. In this scenario, the use of force against John may not be adequate.

When Can You Use Deadly Force?

Under Texas law, a person can use deadly force in very limited circumstances. The use of deadly force in self-defense is justified in the following situations:

  1. You reasonably believe that the use of deadly force is immediately necessary to protect yourself against the use or attempted use of deadly force; or

  2. You reasonably believe that the other person is committing sexual assault (or aggravated sexual assault), murder, aggravated kidnapping, or robbery (or aggravated robbery),

When You Cannot Claim Self-Defense in Texas

Under certain circumstances, self-defense is not a valid defense strategy:

  • You provoke the other person to use force against you;

  • You consented to being hit or attacked;

  • You used a disproportionate or inadequate amount of force; or

  • You were resisting an arrest by a law enforcement officer, even if the arrest was unlawful.

Can You Use Force to Defend Someone Else?

Yes, under Texas law, the use of an adequate amount of force is permitted to defend another person when you reasonably believe that:

  1. Your intervention to defend the person being attacked is immediately necessary; and

  2. The person being attacked would have been able to claim self-defense to defend themselves if they had the opportunity to do so.

Are You Required to Retreat Before Using Force in Texas?

Many states require citizens to retreat before using force. If no reasonable attempts to retreat had been made, the use of force might be deemed unjustified. However, Texas is not one of those states that require you to retreat before using force.

In other words, Texas follows the “stand your ground” doctrine, which permits you to use force against an immediate threat even if you did not attempt to retreat first.

You Need a Belton Criminal Defense Attorney to Claim Self-Defense in Texas

It is critical to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney if you are being accused of a crime after using force to defend yourself, your property, or someone else.

When you claim that you acted in self-defense, you will need to provide evidence to support your claim. A Belton criminal defense attorney will build a strong case on your behalf and gather all available evidence to prove that the use of force was justified and reasonable.

At The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, our criminal lawyers are committed to helping clients get the charges dismissed or reduced using self-defense and other defense strategies.

Schedule a consultation with our attorneys to discuss potential defense strategies in your particular situation. Call 254-501-4040 today.
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