Using physical force to overpower or control another person is a criminal act. Those who strike or injure another person could face assault charges or worse depending on the outcome of the altercation. Those accused of violent crimes may have multiple different defense options. Sometimes, proving that this is a case of mistaken identity or providing an alibi is the best approach. Other times, a defendant will try to claim that their use of force was not illegal under Texas law.
This approach is an affirmative defense. Essentially, the defendant acknowledges that they did at least part of what the prosecution alleges. However, they maintain that they did not break the law. In cases of violent criminal charges, a defendant would likely assert that they had a legal justification for the use of physical force.
What are some of the common justifications provided by defendants in these cases?
Perhaps the most common legal justification for assault and other violent offenses is self-defense. Everyone in Texas has the legal right to defend themselves from the violence or threats of another person, provided that they did not provoke the situation.
If someone takes a swing at you outside of a club or tries to rob you in a parking lot, the law allows you to defend yourself using physical violence if necessary. If you can show that the other party was the aggressor and that you feared for your safety, you may have grounds for a self-defense claim.
The defense of innocent third parties
Sometimes, a person acts not to protect themselves but to protect a family member or friend facing a threat. Texas law even allows total strangers to intervene if they witness some kind of criminal act in progress.
Those who walk into an assault in progress or encounter a robbery might choose to intervene to protect someone. Acting to defend another person at risk of physical harm can also be a justification for the use of physical force under Texas law.
The defense of your personal property
Those who want to steal from you or damage your property could do real harm to you and anyone else who depends on you financially if they succeed in their malicious efforts. You have the right to defend your home, your personal property or your vehicle from or other criminal activity with physical force if necessary.
When trying to justify the use of physical force, a defendant facing criminal charges name evidence or testimony that help support their claims. Understanding the possible defenses when accused of a violent crime can help you better protect yourself in court.