R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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You have the right to defend yourself or others from attack

Security is far from a given these days. People can find themselves in danger while shopping, at a movie theater or even during a walk outside. You could be the unintentional victim of a would-be mugger. Perhaps you witness someone mercilessly beating someone else. Maybe you run into someone you have had a bad interaction with in the past, and things turn violent.

When someone attempts to hurt you or someone else, you have the right to defend yourself and innocent third parties from harm. That could include actions that would otherwise end up classified as assault. However, you must understand Texas law to avoid being put at legal risk when defending yourself.

What qualifies as self defense in Texas?

Texas law allows for a range of defensive behaviors, from threatening violence to lethal force. Generally, self defense claims must have an element of necessity. The person acting out to defend must have reason to think there is potential for imminent harm. If someone has entered a home without permission, for example, you have reason to believe he or she intend harm to you or the occupants.

However, in most cases, you cannot use physical violence to respond to verbal threats. You also cannot provoke the other person into attacking you, only to claim self-defense when you hurt him or her. If you were engaged in criminal behavior, you may not have the right to assert self defense.

When can someone use deadly force for self defense?

In cases involving deadly force, there must be reason to believe the other party intended to kill someone or commit certain crimes, like kidnapping or sexual assault. The law often allows for the use of deadly force against people who enter a domicile without permission and intend to commit a crime. You do not have the obligation to retreat into your home before defending yourself and your loved ones.

The law also provides for the use of deadly force if someone attacks you violently in a space you can legally occupy, a law often referred to as a "stand your ground" law. People attacked in parks or on city streets may invoke this law. You do not have to retreat when someone assaults you. You have the right to defend yourself, potentially including the use of lethal force in some situations.

If police question your defense, you may have to face charges

Sometimes, claims of self defense mean that no criminal charges get filed. However, law enforcement can't always conclusively determine if a person acted within his or her rights in these cases. When that happens, the person who acted defensively may have to go to court. With proper legal help, the judge and/or jury may realize that your actions stemmed from self defense and were not a crime.

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