It’s important to understand how self-defense works in Texas. Otherwise, you may end up facing charges of assault, battery, or even homicide. Using reasonable force is allowed. However, you have to present evidence of self-defense properly to avoid wrongful criminal convictions.
Even if you know you were acting in self-defense, always hire an Austin criminal defense lawyer. Our attorneys can defend against current charges or even prevent charges in the first place in certain situations.
Under Texas law, you have the right to defend yourself against a threatening situation or unlawful force on yourself, others, or your property.
Deadly force, as the name suggests, defines any type of force that is intended or known to cause a serious bodily injury or death. You may have to use deadly force if:
Under the state’s Stand Your Ground Law, you may use deadly force if you’re attempting to protect yourself or others from what you logically assume is a fast-approaching threat of serious bodily injury, an impending threat of death, or felonies like murder, aggravated assault, or robbery – a reaction that is allowed only as a last resort.
This also means you don’t have the duty to retreat before finding it necessary to use deadly force. This is applicable as long as you are legally in your right to be present at the location where the incident occurs.
You must reasonably believe that you have to use deadly force to counteract an imminent threat. You can’t instigate violent behavior or provoke the other person into acting threateningly.
Therefore, the Stand Your Ground Law, or the use of deadly force, does not apply when you’re only safeguarding your property and attempting to prevent a minor crime. Again, you must reasonably believe your life, another person’s safety, or your property, is in imminent peril.
You also can’t use deadly force if someone is surrendering to you or retreating. If the threat suddenly ends, deadly force can’t be justified.
Using non-deadly force entails defending yourself against another party’s use of unlawful force, so that is proportional to the threat. Self-defense cannot be justified if you use retaliation or excessive force. You have the duty to retreat if it can be safely done when you feel you’re in danger.
As a Texan, you can always defend yourself – again, within legal bounds. Below are some suggestions for defending yourself that will prevent an attack that will not cause permanent harm.
Also called oleoresin capsicum, pepper spray will temporarily blind and irritate an attacker for about 30 to 60 minutes. Be careful about the wind’s direction to avoid exposure yourself.
A stun gun electrically socks an attacker and temporarily incapacitates them. The effects last several minutes. For a stun gun to be effective, you need to be close to the attacker.
A type of personal alarm, a screamer alarm scares off an attacker while attracting attention for assistance. The piercing nose (typically around 130 decibels) discourages and disorients the other party. However, the alarm may not prevent an attack from someone who is determined to do you harm or who is impaired.
Taking classes in self-defense, such as karate, kickboxing, or jiu-jitsu, enable you to block, strike or prevent engaging in an attack. These types of skills give you additional confidence in defending yourself in dangerous situations.
In the simplest terms, when another party uses illegal force, you can defend yourself, another person, or your property. The only real defense you have legally to the charge of a violent crime is normally self-defense.
Therefore, this defense strategy is used when a defendant is accused of assault, murder, manslaughter, or domestic violence. So, if you’re charged with a serious crime, and you were defending yourself, you need to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer.
To understand if you used “reasonable” force, you need to answer the question, “Was the other person the actual aggressor?” If you’re charged with assault and you can answer “yes,” to this question, you may be able to prove justification for self-defense.
For instance, if someone struck you or attempted to strike you with a baseball bat to steal your car, and you believed they intended to cause you serious harm, punching the attacker may be considered a reasonable response.
“Reasonable” may also be defined as “proportionate” under Texas self-defense legislation. For instance, if someone jeers at you and calls you a name, you can’t clobber them over the head in return and call it self-defense.
Nor is it “reasonable” or proportionate if a contractor is working outside a home and a dog growls behind a neighbor’s fence. The contractor can’t call it self-defense if he throws a rock at the dog and hurts it. It’s disproportionate to the type of threat.
In Texas, the Castle Doctrine requires that a victim prove that their premises (“castle”) were unlawfully accessed or broken into or that the other party took the defendant from their office, home, workplace, or auto.
Therefore, under this law, your self-defense response is “reasonable” if the other party committed a crime or attempted to hurt or harm the defendant.
Sometimes, the court will justify the use of force to safeguard another party when the defendant believes the other person was unable to defend themself.
For example, if you witness a man beating a woman in a parking lot and intervene by using your fists to separate the couple to stop the attack, this type of response is considered appropriate and proportionate.
You need to back up your claims of self-defense with evidence. This can help you, as the prosecutor must show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed a crime. Reasonable doubt must provide solid proof that the evidence in a case and the supporting arguments contend that the defendant did not act rationally.
In Texas, your right to protect yourself or others from harm is ingrained in the legal system and in the Texas culture. Therefore, people in the state strongly believe in self-defense, and Texas laws reflect this feeling.
However, again, it is also critical to understand the legal boundaries about using force when defending yourself or someone else.
The Stand Your Ground Law states that a person doesn’t have to retreat before using force when defending themself. This is true – as long as the person has a right to be in the location where the incident occurs and was not provoked by the attacker.
The Castle Doctrine, in Texas, acknowledges a person’s right to protect their property and house from intrusion or attempted theft. No doctrine to retreat is implied. A defender of their property may use deadly force, if necessary, to safeguard their property from an imminent threat.
Texas law allows the use of deadly force for self-defense – again, as long as there is an imminent danger. If it prevents a violent crime, such as robbery, sexual assault, or murder, it’s permitted. It is not justified in non-life-threatening situations or when you’re merely trying to protect your property.
Therefore, it’s important to understand that the law in Texas grants you some leeway for defending yourself, another person, or property from peril. However, it does not provide blanket immunity for any action that goes beyond what is “reasonable.” Employing force, therefore, should be considered a last resort, or, if possible, it’s better to avoid confrontations altogether.
Maybe you found it necessary to take the life of another person in self-defense. If so, you need to speak to a lawyer about your situation. Laws such as Stand Your Ground and the Castle Doctrine allow you to plan a defense strategy that will help you argue your case successfully.
You’ll need to present clear and convincing evidence that you were under attack and that you did not provoke the incident. You’ll also have to show that retreating from the situation was not possible. By discussing your case with an attorney, you can prove why you were justified legally in acting as you did.
If you have been charged with a crime but responded in self-defense, you need to speak to a lawyer who can help you with the complexities of this type of case. In Texas, schedule a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer who knows what it takes to prove your innocence. Contact the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, for further details and to set up an appointment today.
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