Overview of Texas’ self-defense law
Self-defense is a fundamental right protected by Texas law. It allows citizens to protect themselves from harm.
The state defines self-defense as the use of force against another person when you reasonably believe it is necessary to protect yourself from imminent harm. You could later discover that you were not in danger, but that fact does not matter in the moment. If you have a legitimate concern that you are under a threat, you have the right to defend yourself.
In certain, extreme circumstances, the use of deadly force is also permitted. For instance, fatal self-defense can be justifiable when someone unlawfully enters your home.
In a self-defense plea, the use of force must be proportional to the threat. Using any excessive force may result in criminal charges. For instance, it is inappropriate to block a slap to the face with a brutal beatdown.
Threats That Can Trigger a Self-Defense Plea
In Texas, self-defense is defined as being able to protect oneself from:
- Bodily harm
- Sexual assault
- Any other actions that could otherwise cause death or harm
Threats can come in many forms, including:
- Verbal threats
- Physical violence
- Brandishing of weapons
How Much Force Can You Use for Self-Defense in Texas
You are permitted to use force that is reasonable and necessary to protect yourself from harm. As such, acceptable levels of force vary depending on the situation.
When someone is attacked, then they may use enough force to counteract the threat, but they cannot go overboard. A punch matches a punch; a slap matches a slap; and deadly force is appropriate only when your best hope for survival is killing your attacker.
Let’s look at these principles in action:
A woman is being harassed or feels threatened by a creepy guy at the bar. He is looming over her, and she feels threatened. If she slaps the offender and runs away, this could be a justifiable use of self-defense.
However, imagine she does not slap him. Instead, she runs off and then sends her boyfriend to physically assault the creep. This action goes beyond the law, and it would be hard to justify as self-defense. Authorities could view this act as vigilante justice, which could result in serious consequences for both the woman and her boyfriend.
The key is to use only enough force to deter harm without excessive or unnecessary force.
Texas and Stand-Your-Ground Laws
In Texas, stand-your-ground laws do not require you to retreat from an attack. You may stay and fight back.
In some cases, stand-your-ground allows you to use deadly force to protect yourself or others from imminent harm.
Even though Texas does not require you to run from a fight, it still requires that any act of self-defense meets the same criteria. The aggressor must use or initiate force against you; you must have had a reasonable belief that this force will cause you or someone else harm; the force you used in response must be reasonable and proportional to the threat.
If you’ve been accused of assault, but you were only protecting yourself, Law Offices Of Mark M. Childress may be able to help. For a free consultation, contact our office online or call us at (817) 497-8148.