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Breaking down Texas’ self-defense laws

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2021 | Criminal Law |

One might assume this it is relatively easy to avoid ever facing any sort of criminal charge in Texas. Yet at the same time, people also recognize that there are situations where they may feel compelled to act in a way counter to their traditional comportment (and that most would consider unlawful). Cases where one feels like they have to defend themselves (or others) may certainly fall into this category. 

The question then becomes to what degree does the law allow one to act in self-defense. Texas state statutes do allow for lawful defensive action, but only under certain circumstances. 

“Stand Your Ground” law

Most self-defense laws follow two similar (yet slightly differing) philosophies” “Stand Your Ground” or “the Castle Doctrine.” Texas is somewhat unique in that its laws have footprints in both principles. The “Stand Your Ground” philosophy removes a person’s legal duty to retreat from any situation in which they feel threatened. According to Section 9.31 of the Texas Penal Code, one can act forcefully against another when fearing that another wants to use unlawful force against them. The law views such a fear as justified in the prevention of any of the following offenses: 

  • Murder 
  • Robbery 
  • Aggravated robbery 
  • Aggravated kidnapping 
  • Sexual assault 
  • Aggravated sexual assault 

“The Castle Doctrine”

On the other hand, Texas’ self-defense laws also show an influence from “the Castle Doctrine.” This doctrine follows the old adage of a person’s home being their castle (thus empowering them with the right to defend it). Indeed, state law assumes a reasonable fear of danger when a person attempts to unlawfully enter (or remove one from) their home or vehicle. In addition, the Texas State Law Library lists defensive action as lawful when defending one’s property.