Homicide charges are of course quite serious in Texas and around the country. When a claim of self-defense meets essential criteria, a defendant could have murder or manslaughter charges dropped or be acquitted at trial. The general definitions of self-defense must be satisfied in order for a person to potentially avoid a criminal conviction.
Self-defense can only be asserted when a defendant occupied a non-prohibited space. This means the person did not trespass upon another person’s property or space before becoming involved in a deadly altercation. Additionally, the person must not be the instigator of the confrontation in any way.
Fear of death counts substantially toward building a self-defense claim. The defendant must be able to convince others that killing the other person was the only way to avert death or severe injury. In some situations, continuing the use of deadly force after injuring an aggressor to the point of incapacity could disqualify a self-defense claim.
Unlike some states, Texas does not require a condition of retreat, which places the burden on the person to first attempt to flee the situation before using deadly force. This is commonly known as the right to “stand your ground.”
Due to the seriousness of charges for murder and other violent crimes, a person in that situation often seeks legal representation. An attorney could assess the evidence and determine if it could meet self-defense criteria. Even if it cannot, an attorney might develop a criminal defense strategy by casting doubt on evidence because a prosecutor has the burden of proof in a criminal case. The negotiation of a plea agreement with the prosecutor might also be a viable path towards a reduction of charges in some situations.