Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

What is the Texas law on self-defense?

According to the Texas Penal Code, an individual is justified in using force against another person if the individual has a reasonable belief that force is necessary to protect themselves from the other person's use of unlawful force. There is a presumption that this belief is reasonable under certain circumstances, such as: when the other person has illegally and forcibly entered the individual's home, place of work or vehicle; or when the other person was committing or attempting to commit murder, sexual assault, robbery or other specified violent crimes.

Texas law states that the use of force cannot be justified by self-defense if the person claiming self-defense was reacting solely to verbal provocation by the other person. It is not enough that the other person is guilty of bad behavior; there must be a realistic threat of harm and the person claiming self-defense must reasonably believe force is necessary for self-protection. An individual generally cannot claim self-defense if he or she provoked the other person. Self-defense is also unavailable as a justification when the individual sought a discussion or explanation from the other person about a dispute between them, and the individual claiming self-defense was carrying a weapon at the time.

Texas does not have a duty to retreat in its self-defense law. As long as a person has a legal right to be at the location, and the other requirements of the self-defense law are met, they are not required to retreat before using force.

Whether a claim of self-defense will be successful in a criminal trial will depend on the facts of the specific case. Texas criminal defense attorneys can help those who are accused of violent crimes to understand how the law may apply to their circumstances.

Source: Tex. Penal Code § 9.31, accessed June 27, 2015

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