A defendant charged with assault in Texas will often claim that they were acting in self defense when the crime took place. However, in order to be successful, they must be able to prove that they had good reasons to believe they were in real danger when they knowingly caused bodily harm to another, or threatening another with bodily harm.
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Texas state law gives every person the right to defend themselves, their property, place of business, and innocent persons from threats of violence, with deadly force if necessary — but only under certain circumstances. If a person uses force against another without legal justification, they could find themselves being charged with assault.
Definition of Assault in Texas
In Texas, assault is defined as intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly causing bodily harm to another, or threatening another with bodily harm. It’s both a misdemeanor and felony crime. A conviction for assault could result in thousands of dollars in fines and up to life in prison, depending on the severity of the crime.
Definition of Self Defense Under Texas Law
Under Texas’ self-defense laws, a person is justified in causing bodily harm to another, or threatening another with bodily harm when they reasonably believe it’s the only way to protect themselves against another’s use, or attempted use, of unlawful force. The laws allow a person to protect themselves using force in situations where another person:
- Unlawfully and with force entered, or was attempting to enter unlawfully and with force, the actor’s occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment;
- Unlawfully and with force removed, or was attempting to remove unlawfully and with force, the actor from the actor’s habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment; or
- Was committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.
When Self Defense Isn’t a Defense
These same laws also point out situations where the use of reasonable force for self defense is not justified:
- If you provoked the other person into using force;
- If you consented to the other person using force against you;
- If the other person abandons the encounter and you continue to try and use force against them; or
- If you are resisting arrest.
In addition, if, in the act of defending yourself, you accidentally cause harm to a third, innocent party, you are not protected under Texas’ self-defense laws for the harm you caused to that person.
Self Defense as a Defense Strategy
If you’ve been charged with misdemeanor or felony assault charges and you believe you were acting in self defense, you need a defense attorney on your side who knows how Texas’ self-defense laws apply in your case.
Texas laws give you the right to defend yourself, but only in certain situations. Claiming you acted in self defense can be an effective defense strategy against assault charges, but only when you can demonstrate that the crime you are charged with was actually an act of defense.
Lisa Shapiro Strauss is a former county DA turned Houston assault defense attorney who has represented many clients charged with misdemeanor or criminal assault in Houston and Harris County. If it can be shown that you were in fact acting in self defense when you allegedly committed assault, there’s a good chance you could get the charges against you dropped, or at least reduced. Lisa’s vast legal knowledge and years of experience will greatly increase your odds of obtaining a satisfactory outcome to your case.
Contact Houston criminal defense attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss to discuss your case.