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Examining Texas’ self-defense laws

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Defending yourself against charges of violent crimes (such as assault or homicide) is often difficult in Texas due to many only considering the net result of your actions. If that result is another ending up injured (or even dead), your claims that you only acted in self-defense are often met with skepticism. 

Many in this exact same position come to us here at Burelson, Pate & Gibson, L.L.P. concerned that their assertions will fall on deaf ears. If you share the same worry, you should take some measure of comfort in knowing that despite skepticism of your claims, ultimately it is local statutes that determine the lawfulness of your actions. 

“The Castle Doctrine”

What does Texas state law say in regards to self-defense? Per Section 9.31 of the state’s Penal Code, the law assumes a reasonable fear of suffering death or serious injury in the following scenarios: 

  • One attempts to forcefully enter (or remove you from) your house, vehicle or place of employment 
  • You are not the aggressor in the situation 
  • You are not in the process of committing a crime yourself 

In this scenario, the law justifies the use of force (even deadly force) to defend yourself and your loved ones. This follows the legal principle known as “the Castle Doctrine,” which removes your duty to retreat from a situation when defending yourself in a place you are legally entitled to be. 

Exceptions to Texas’ self-defense statute

There are, of course, exceptions to this standard. For example, you cannot respond with force to a verbal threat alone, nor can you in any situation where you may have provoked the actions of one attempting to enter your domicile. You also cannot act against a peace officer attempting to execute their duties. 

You can find more information on responding to criminal accusations throughout our site.