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How To Prove Self-Defense In A Texas Criminal Case?

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How To Prove Self-Defense In A Texas Criminal Case?


Self-defense is a valid defense against criminal charges in certain situations. It can even be a complete defense warranting dismissal of a case. When and how self-defense can be applied as part of a legal defense depends on the facts and circumstances of a case, so it is important to understand how courts view self-defense.

Self-defense under Texas law is defined by Texas Penal Code Sec. 9.31. This section provides that a person is justified in using force against another when they reasonably  believe the force was immediately necessary for protection against unlawful use of force (or attempted use of force) by another person.

People can generally only claim self-defense when they:

  • Used only the minimum amount of force necessary for self-defense;
  • Reasonably believed force was necessary to protect against someone else’s use of unlawful force;
  • Did not instigate or provoke the attack;
  • Were not engaged in a crime or unlawful conduct themselves.

Additionally, under Texas law, self-defense is not justified when:

  • The response is to a verbal provocation alone;
  • The response is to an attempt to arrest or search by a known peace officer (unless the officer uses greater force than necessary to carry out the arrest or search);
  • The actor consented to, or provoked, the initial use of force by an alleged aggressor (for example, challenging someone to a fight or other altercation);

A self-defense argument, if successful, is a complete defense to a criminal allegation. It justifies the use of force made by a defendant, in response to some type of threat carried out by another person. Typically, the self defense technique used by the defendant must be roughly proportional to the threat posed. For example, hitting back against someone that hit first can be justifiable self-defense under the law. Using a dangerous weapon against someone that merely pushed the defendant might not be justifiable.

When is Deadly Force Justified as Self-Defense?

Under Texas Penal Code Sec. 9.32, a person may be justified in using deadly force if they believed such force was:

  1. Immediately necessary to protect against another’s unlawful use of deadly force themselves; or
  2. Immediately necessary to protect against an attempt kidnap, rape, rob, or murder.

Further a defendant’s use of deadly force is presumed to be reasonable if the aggressor was unlawfully attempting to enter a person’s home, vehicle, or place of business. Texas is among the states recognizing the “Castle Doctrine” – which holds that a person has no “duty to retreat” and withhold deadly force if the aggressor is invading a person’s home.

In short, a defendant is usually allowed to act in self defense if their actions were in response to a dangerous threat and they were proportionate to the threat that was posed. When the aggressor was invading a home or attempting a violent act such as rape, robbery, or kidnapping, deadly force may also be justified.

Self-defense cases are unique and complicated, depending on the facts involved. Prosecutors will argue aggressively against the application of self-defense in any case, so it is crucial to have a skilled and experienced criminal defense team at your side.

If You Believe Your Actions Were Justified by Self-Defense, Contact Our Pearland, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Today

There are many cases in which a person’s actions can actually be justified by self-defense. Even if you are unsure whether you have a valid self-defense argument, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to explore all potential defenses and make the clearest case possible for them. At Keith B. French Law, our Pearland criminal lawyers understand that all situations are unique, and your actions might have been done simply to protect yourself. If you want to learn more about self-defense arguments in a Texas criminal case, feel free to contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC online or call 832-243-6153 today.


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