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Reviewing Texas’ self-defense laws

| Sep 19, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

It may seem easy for many in Texas to express skepticism when one claims self-defense in response to a criminal accusation. This comes from the assumption that one should always be able to avoid a violent confrontation. However, that assumption conflicts with the reality that there are situations where one can reasonably fear for their own safety (or that of their loved ones) from the threat of another.

Should one be able to react to such situations with force? The law does indeed recognize the need for such action, yet clearly outlines the scenarios in which the state’s self-defense law applies.

“Stand Your Ground” vs. “the Castle Doctrine”

Most self-defense statutes follow one of two common legal philosophies. One is “the Castle Doctrine,” which (according to the National Conference of State Legislatures) follows the old adage that a person’s home is their castle, and thus they should be able to defend it. Indeed, the Castle Doctrine allows for the use of defensive force against one attempting to unlawfully enter their dwelling. “Stand Your Ground” laws, on the other hand, extend the rights afforded by the Castle Doctrine outside of the home to scenarios where one feels threatened by another.

Defining the lawful use of force in Texas

Per Section 9.31 of the Texas Penal Code, the state’s self-defense law is a mix of both philosophies. It states that the assumption exists that one had a reasonable fear for their own safety (and thus justified in reacting with force) if one either attempts to unlawfully enter or remove them from any of the following locations:

  • Their home
  • Their vehicle
  • Their place of business

In addition, the law justifies the use of force to stopping the commission (or attempted commission) of a robbery, sexual assault or murder.