The Self-Defense Laws in Texas

Out of focus man in a white t-shirt points a pistol toward the camera.

Everyone in the great state of Texas has a right to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their property. But where is the line drawn between protecting oneself and committing a criminal act? What do the self-defense laws in Texas say?

While the self-defense laws in Texas provide significant protection for Texans defending themselves and their loved ones, there are situations in which self-defense does not apply, and proving that you were acting in self-defense is not always as simple as it seems. 

Guzman Law Firm is a federal criminal firm that is known for relentlessly defending the rights of our clients. If you or a loved one acted in self-defense and are now facing a complex legal battle, you need a good self-defense lawyer in your corner to make sure the judge hears your side of the story. 

If you need a criminal attorney in Laredo, TX, call Javier Guzman at Guzman Law Firm today at (956) 516-7198.

What are the self-defense rules in Texas?

First things first, self-defense is a justification for committing a crime, otherwise known as an affirmative defense. This means that the self-defense laws in Texas are not intended to prove that you didn’t commit an assault or homicide crime, but to show that you had to do so. 

Texas Penal Code § 9.31 outlines Texas’ self-defense laws, including when self-defense applies and when it does not. There are a handful of rules that dictate whether or not acting in self-defense will stand as a defense to a crime in Texas. In order for self-defense to stand as a defense to a crime in Texas:

  • The actor must use only the level of force needed to defend themselves (reasonable force)
  • There must exist a need for force to stop someone else’s dangerous actions (reasonable apprehension) 
  • There cannot be provocation on behalf of the person acting in self-defense
  • The person claiming self-defense cannot do so while in the process of commissioning another crime at the time of the act of self-defense 

The following key concepts play a large role in determining whether or not self-defense will stand as a complete defense in Texas.

Reasonable apprehension or belief in necessary force

In order to establish self-defense as a criminal defense, it must be shown that the person who acted in self-defense had reasonable apprehension or a belief of necessary force.

This does not mean that the person acting in self-defense must have been physically attacked before responding, but that they were responding to what they truly believed to be a threat of violence. 

If it can be said that the person acting had a belief of necessary force, or truly believed that their life or the lives of others were in danger, then self-defense will likely stand as a viable argument for the defense of others, one’s self, and even for defense of property, under certain circumstances. 

Reasonable force 

On top of having a belief in necessary force, for self-defense to stand as a complete defense to a crime in Texas, the court must determine that the actor was also justified in using force. What does this mean?

If you defend yourself, your property, or other people from a threat of violence, you cannot use force greater than the amount necessary in that defense. If you exceed what is considered an appropriate amount of force, you may not be able to claim self-defense at all. 

For example, if someone comes to your home without a weapon and you use a gun to defend yourself, there is a chance that the court will rule that you did not use reasonable force.

Stand Your Ground Laws and the Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine and the Stand Your Ground Laws make up an important part of the self-defense laws in Texas. Both laws outline situations in which people in Texas have a right to act in self-defense and stipulate that reasonable force be used. 

What are the Stand Your Ground Laws in Texas?

The Stand Your Ground Laws essentially state that you have no duty to retreat if someone enters your own property unlawfully and you believe that you are in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. 

If someone enters your home, office, or vehicle unlawfully, you are not required to retreat and are allowed to meet the threat head-on — as long as you use what is determined to be the proportionate amount of force. 

What is the Castle Doctrine in Texas?

The Texas Penal Code section relating to self-defense is commonly referred to as the Castle Doctrine, under which people in Texas have the right to protect themselves, other people, and their property in the event of a break-in. 

The Castle Doctrine states that if a person’s home, office, or vehicle (all of which can be referred to as their “castle”) is unlawfully entered, or that a person be forcibly removed from these same premises, that they have a right to self-defense under Texas law. Basically, your home is your castle, and you have a right to act in self-defense to protect your castle. 

Together, the Stand Your Ground Laws and the Castle Doctrine offer serious protection for people on their own property who need to protect themselves from danger. 

The self-defense laws in Texas might not protect you without an experienced criminal lawyer

Despite the self-defense laws in Texas offering significant protection for those acting in self-defense, it is likely that in defending your life and your property you can still be charged with a crime. 

Because self-defense is an affirmative offense in Texas, you will likely need an attorney to prove that although you committed a crime, you did so in protection of life or property, and used an appropriate amount of force to do so. 

In order to prove your innocence you’ll need a trusted, experienced, and aggressive criminal defense attorney — one like Javier Guzman. Whether you need to know how to beat a simple assault charge or were just charged with your 2nd DWI in Texas, Javier Guzman is here to fight for you. He will ensure that your side of the story is told.

Call Javier Guzman at the Guzman Law Firm today at (956) 516-7198 or contact us online today for a consultation. 

More Helpful Articles by Guzman Law Firm: