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When is Self-Defense an Effective Criminal Defense Strategy?

When you are facing criminal charges in Texas, you should be working with an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer to develop a defense strategy that is tailored to the specific charges you are facing and to the particular circumstances of your case. Yet you might also be wondering about specific kinds of defense strategies and whether they could be applicable to your charges. In the case of many types of violent crimes and resulting criminal charges, self-defense can be one possible defense strategy, but it is not necessarily applicable to all situations. When is self-defense an effective criminal defense strategy in Texas, and when should you look to other defense options? Our criminal defense attorneys are here to help.

Understanding Self-Defense Under Texas Law

Under the Texas Penal Code chapter on “justification excluding criminal liability,” self-defense is identified as a justification defense, which means that the person facing charges is not alleging that he or she did not commit the act for which he or she is facing criminal charges. Rather, the person facing charges is saying that there was justification for the act. As the Texas Penal Code clarifies, “it is a defense to prosecution that the conduct in question is justified under this chapter.”

The Texas Penal Code then defines self-defense like this: “[A] person is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force.”

When Self-Defense May Be Applicable to a Case

When is a person’s belief that force is necessary considered to be reasonable under Texas law? In general, a defendant may be able to successfully claim the defense of self-defense if she or he used force against another person and all of the following is true:

  • Defendant knew or had a reason to believe that the person against whom force was used was attempting a recognized unlawful act (including attempting to enter the defendant’s property or place of business, attempting to remove the defendant from his or her property or place of business, or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery);
  • Defendant did not provoke the other person; and
  • Defendant was not engaged in another criminal act at the time of the use of force.

The Texas Penal Code makes clear that self-defense is not a legitimate defense when a person responds with force to a verbal provocation, to resist arrest (even if the arrest is unlawful), if the defendant consented to the other party’s initial use of force, or if the defendant provoked the other party’s initial use of force.

Defense of a Third, or Defense of Another Person

The defense of self-defense as described above can also be an effective defense strategy when force is used in defense of a third party or another person.

Contact Our Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you are facing criminal charges and have questions about claiming self-defense, our criminal defense attorneys in Texas can assist you. Contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today for more information.