What Are the Rules on Self Defense in Texas?
If you are or your property is threatened—or you see others being threatened or assaulted—what rights do you have to self-defense or to defend others? More than two dozen states, including Texas, have adopted versions of what is called “stand your ground,” which generally means you can defend yourself and others using reasonable and proportionate force.
This doctrine is essentially the opposite of some states’ laws that require a “duty to retreat.” In other words, if you can flee to safety, that’s what you should do rather than defending yourself with force.
There is still another self-defense standard known as “the castle doctrine,” which means you can exert reasonable and proportionate force to protect yourself and your property, generally when someone intrudes upon your home, car, or office setting without permission and has crime or harm in mind.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a self-defense situation in Corpus Christi or anywhere else in Texas, reach out to us at The Torres Law Firm. We are criminal defense attorneys who will help you exercise your rights and aggressively challenge any pending charges. We are proud to serve clients throughout the entire state, including Dallas and Fort Worth. Set up a consultation with us today.
Self-Defense Laws in Texas
Texas has, over the decades, pushed the cause of self-defense to the forefront. Back in 1973, Texas had imposed a “duty to retreat” restriction when it came to issues of self-defense. In other words, your first priority was to find a means to extricate yourself and retreat to a safe haven. You could not exert force in self-defense if there were any way to avoid the confrontation. This was also referred to as a “retreat to the wall” requirement.
In 1995, Texas began loosening its self-defense laws by incorporating “the castle doctrine.” As noted earlier, this doctrine allows for self-defense if you are defending your own home or property. Duty to retreat is still held if a situation arose outside of your home or property you owned. In 2007, though, the retreat provision was eliminated and a version of “stand your ground” was initiated.
When Self-Defense Is Justified and When It’s Not
First and foremost, any force you use in self-defense must be reasonable and proportionate. If someone is attempting to break into your car, you cannot immediately pull a gun on the individual. You can confront the person, and if they respond in force, you can reply with proportionate force.
This brings up another important legal qualification: you cannot use force in response to a mere oral confrontation. You must be threatened with force yourself. You also cannot provoke the other party to use force and then claim self-defense.
Texas Penal Code Section 9.31 “Self-Defense” states that the actor (you who are contemplating self-defense) must reasonably believe that “force is immediately necessary to protect the actor [yourself] against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful force.”
Texas law also allows you to employ force to protect someone you see in harm’s way. For instance, you pull into a parking lot and someone is beating the driver of a nearby car in an attempt to steal it. You rush over and defend the assaulted driver using reasonable and proportionate force. That can be considered legal under self-defense laws.
When Is Deadly Force Allowed?
Deadly force, such as using a gun or other weapon, must—like other forms of force used in self-defense—be reasonable and proportionate. If someone enters your house with a rifle or handgun and starts making threats, it may be reasonable and proportionate to pull out your own pistol and defend yourself, even to the point of firing at the intruder.
If the intruder lacks any weapon and is just looking for valuables to steal and backs off when confronted, you may have a more difficult time proving self-defense if you pull the trigger resulting in death.
If you are involved in a self-defense incident, police may arrest you and then ask questions later as to what happened. Prosecutors may even try to charge you with a crime such as assault or using a deadly weapon, and then you will have to present evidence justifying the force you used.
If matters do go to trial, however, remember that prosecutors have to prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a high legal bar. Juries may well understand your actions and even sympathize, but you will need strong evidence and good legal representation if your case ends up in court.
Understand Your Self-Defense Rights
If you or a loved one is under investigation for your actions in self-defense—or if you have questions about your rights to self-defense—contact us immediately at The Torres Law Firm. We will answer your questions and help you exercise your full rights under the law. Ultimately, The Torres Attorneys will make sure police and prosecutors understand your side of the story, and we will fight aggressively for the best possible outcome.