What Counts as Self Defense in Texas?

Like other states around the country, Texas has seen its share of controversial self-defense shootings. Such cases draw public and media scrutiny, and Texas’ broad self-defense laws are put in the spotlight. Here’s a review of self-defense laws in Texas, including what counts as self-defense and what doesn’t.

Self-Defense Laws in Texas Are Broad

Self-defense laws in Texas weren’t always as broad as they are now. In 1973, the state’s penal code underwent massive reform. The state ushered in a self-defense condition that did not include a stand-your-ground provision. What’s more, it required defendants of self-defense force to prove that it was not safe to retreat before using force.

Later in 1995, the Legislature enacted what became known as the castle doctrine. The castle doctrine states that you do not have to retreat if you are in your own home or on your property. Under the castle doctrine, self-defense may also be asserted in defense of property as well as to prevent physical harm. As such, Texas is a stand-your-ground state. Finally, in 2007, the Legislature broadened self-defense laws even further with an amendment to eliminate the requirement to retreat altogether.

The Four Components of Self-Defense in Texas

In order to assert self-defense in Texas, the following must be true:

  1. First, the defendant must reasonably believe that deadly force was necessary to defend themselves against the unlawful use of force of another person or party.
  1. They must use only the minimum amount of force necessary to stop an attack.
  1. They cannot provoke another party into the use of deadly force. This is known as provocation. A person can’t provoke a conflict that ultimately causes the need for them to protect themselves through deadly force.
  1. You can never claim self-defense if you are in the act of committing a crime.

If these requirements are met, self-defense can be invoked, and a successful defense can absolve the defendant for a violent crime.

The Burden of Proof Lies with the Defendant

Criminal cases require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed. Not so with self-defense claims. While the self-defense laws of Texas are broad, the state still places the burden of proof on the defendant. Typically, a self-defense argument is only asserted after an individual has already been arrested, charged, and indicted. Consequently, the defendant must show proof that self-defense applies to his or her case. At that point, the state has to disprove the self-defense assertion.

Discuss Your Case with an Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or someone close to you is charged with a crime for using self-defense, it is imperative to seek legal counsel immediately. Whether self-defense was exercised to protect your person, property, or other people, you’ll need legal representation to fight for your rights. Contact the skilled criminal defense lawyers at Granger and Mueller PC. We’ll answer all your questions and inform you of your legal options. Above all else, we’ll fight vigorously on your behalf to protect your legal rights.