There are many Texas self-defense laws that address issues pertaining to protecting yourself, your home, or a third party. Some allow the use of force in certain circumstances. Use of force must be justified, however, and that would have to be proven in court.
Texas is one of 23 states that employs the Castle Doctrine and gives its population the right to “stand their ground” when attacked. Other states have a “duty to retreat,” in which a person must retreat first, if possible, before using force.
This guide will bring you up to speed on everything you need to know about Texas self-defense laws, proving justifiable self-defense, and what the Castle Doctrine means to you.
Explaining Texas Self-Defense Laws
Texas Penal Code 931 is the defining legislation for Texas self-defense laws. It states that “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.”
The “Stand your ground” law and Castle Doctrine outline justifications for self-defense in Texas.
These two pieces of legislation give Texans a lot of power to protect themselves and their homes – but that power also comes with a lot of responsibility. Familiarize yourself with the Castle Doctrine and “stand your ground” laws to make sure you’re aware of all the rights and responsibilities Texas bestows on its citizens.
Self-defense laws in Texas and 22 other states follow the Castle Doctrine. (A doctrine is a government policy, not a law.) The Castle Doctrine stands on the theory that a person’s home is their castle, and they have the right to protect themselves within it, even with lethal force. This doctrine is used to different degrees in each state. Texas, unlike some other states, allows a person to use deadly force in their home against someone when they have reason to believe they were in jeopardy.
“Stand Your Ground” Laws
Texas’ “stand your ground” law says people can use lethal force to protect themselves in their own home or vehicle without first retreating. This law applies to anyone who is somewhere they are legally allowed to be, is not committing a crime, and is not provoking the situation.
A Duty to Retreat
“Duty to retreat” laws say a person in fear for their life must first retreat and try to escape the situation before using force to protect themselves. The guiding principle is that even the lives of attackers are valuable. States with “duty to retreat” laws still recognize a person’s right to defend themselves in their own home to some degree. Texas is not a “duty to retreat” state.
Defending Someone Else
The state of Texas believes protecting a third party is a justifiable use of force. Intervention must be completely necessary, and the person must be in imminent danger. An example is seeing someone getting assaulted in a grocery store parking lot and running over to help.
Using force in a confrontation in your own home is justified, according to Texas self-defense laws. The question is, how much force is justified, and what about deadly force? The law dictates that the use of force must be reasonable in relation to the criminal force threatened. A person claiming self-defense can be accused of assault or murder if a court finds that they used excessive force. Texas only considers deadly force justifiable in one’s home in cases such as murder, rape, assault, robbery, and kidnapping.
When Property Is an Issue
Property disputes can get ugly and even turn violent. Texas extends self-defense rights to the protection of one’s property. Any type of force, even deadly, is justifiable in these cases. The use of deadly force is only justifiable in extreme situations, however. Texas Penal Code 9.42 states that people can use deadly force if there was no other way to protect themselves or their property. It can also be used to stop a felonious crime in action, such as arson, burglary, robbery, or theft.
The Burden of Proof
Texas’ authorization to use force to defend yourself, your property, and others has some limitations. There is a burden of proof to meet if you claim self-defense. A person making a self-defense claim must show that they believed the force was necessary and proportionate in relation to the threat and show evidence of their claim. The burden of proof then transfers to the prosecutor, who must persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that excessive force was used.
Castle Doctrines and “stand your ground” laws are vital to public safety. The average citizen could be subject to persecution in their own homes without them. Texans should understand these laws and their limitations to know their rights.
4 Times When ‘Self-Defense’ Is Not a Defense
The mere presence of an argument or potentially combative situation does not necessitate the use of violent force for self-preservation, according to Texas law. There are circumstances in which the state doesn’t allow the use of force in self-defense, including:
1. Verbal argument
A verbal provocation or argument is not reason enough to use force. No self-defense is required in a verbal disagreement.
Self-defense is not a justification for force used against an officer of the law while under arrest. The only exception could be if the arrest was unlawful and the officer used excessive force.
Self-defense is not justified if you consented to being subjected to force. This means you can’t respond with force after losing a boxing match, for instance.
4. Instigating Without Retreat
Self-defense is not a justification for using force if you instigated a violent situation and did not retreat.
Self-defense is a growing concern in the United States. It’s essential to fully understand your rights and responsibilities concerning Texas self-defense laws, including when deadly force is warranted and when it isn’t. Lack of familiarity with these laws could leave you unsure how to act when a self-defense situation arises.
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