As a general rule, it is against the law to engage in any behavior intended to harm or intimidate others. Those involved in a physical altercation will often find themselves arrested and facing prosecution. Charges ranging from simple assault to aggravated assault and even homicide could result from an incident in which someone has instigated violence but these charges can also result from someone’s attempts to defend themselves, others or property.
Thankfully, Texas law does allow for an affirmative defense advanced by lawyers on behalf of those accused of a violent crime. In several different scenarios, individuals can assert that their actions were not illegal because they sought to protect themselves rather than to harm someone else.
Defense of one’s physical safety
The most obvious reason for someone to claim that they acted in self-defense is when they were in fear for their own physical safety. A credible threat could include a verbal statement by an assailant or possibly aggressive body language. If a reasonable person would agree that an individual faced an imminent threat against their well-being, that individual may have a strong case to claim that they acted in self-defense.
Defense of another person
Some people will need to speak up or take action on behalf of their spouse during a social interaction or protect their child from an adult with bad intentions. There are others who will take action to protect total strangers, like the clerk at a convenience store held at gunpoint during a robbery. Those who encounter a crime in progress or who believe someone else is that immediate risk of bodily harm caused by another may be able to use physical force to protect that other person and then raise a claim of self-defense in court.
Defense of an individual’s property
They say that a person’s home is their castle, which is where the phrase “Castle Doctrine” comes from. An individual potentially has the right to use lethal force to defend their home during a criminal invasion without any duty to retreat first. People can also use physical force to defend themselves against robbery and certain other property crimes under Texas law.
To effectively raise a claim of self-defense, an individual will typically need to create a compelling narrative that addresses the evidence presented by the prosecution. Discussing the situation that led to someone’s arrest with a defense attorney is often the first step toward mounting a self-defense claim in response to violent criminal charges in Texas.