As a general rule, physical violence and threats of violence violate the law. Police in Texas arrest people for threats of violence, which can result in assault charges. They also arrest those who cause provable physical harm to others, possibly charging the accused with anything from battery to homicide depending on the circumstances.

However, Texas law is clear that individuals have the right to defend themselves, their property and other people from the imminent threat of harm. For some people accused of violent offenses in Texas, self-defense claims can help them defend against the criminal consequences they face.

When does Texas allow for the use of force in self-defense?

Generally speaking, you have the right to use physical force to defend yourself when another person poses an imminent threat to you or others. For example, if someone attempts to hit you, you have the right to hit them back or knock their feet out from under them to incapacitate them temporarily.

You also have the right to temporarily restrain a burglar if you come home to catch someone in the process of stealing from your house, at least until police arrive and can conduct an appropriate arrest. Generally, you cannot use physical force just because of someone’s verbal provocations. Additionally, the situations in which you can physically defend yourself from an officer attempting to detain you or search you are far more limited than situations involving the general public.

How much force can you legally use in Texas?

Beyond whether the use of physical force to protect yourself, your property or others is legal, there is also a question of how much force is appropriate. There is a lot of discretionary area in determining the appropriate amount of force for a situation.

Generally, people should only use the amount of force they believe necessary to protect themselves or stop an attack in process. The use of lethal force is typically only a last resort. However, it’s important to know that in a situation where someone feels like someone else poses a direct threat to their life or the life of someone else, there is no duty to retreat before using force as a means of self-defense.

If your situation resulted from an attempt to defend yourself or others, that intention could become the backbone of your criminal defense strategy.