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What does a “reasonable belief “ of “imminent harm” mean?

On Behalf of | May 4, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

A lot of times, those accused of assault will assert a positive defense, claiming that they had the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves (or others) from harm – and Texas does recognize this right.

However, there are a few caveats to that right. One of those is that you can only justify violent conduct when you have a reasonable belief that your actions are “immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm.” What does that mean?

Every case is very fact-specific

Every situation involving human interactions can be unique, and that’s especially true in situations where someone may feel threatened by another. Imagine, for example, that your geriatric neighbor with dementia gets angry at you and your friends for making too much noise when they’re at a barbecue in your yard. From his own front porch, he shakes his cane at you and says he’s going to beat you all up with it.

Your neighbor might not be pleasant to deal with, but it would be difficult to say that you had any reasonable fear that he posed an imminent danger to either you or your friends based on the fact that he was at a considerable distance and unlikely to be any real threat to an able-bodied person (let alone a crowd). Things may change, however, if the neighbor suddenly shows up at your fence gate with a shotgun in his hands. Seeing that, you might very well reasonably believe that you and your friends are in imminent danger. A firearm is a great equalizer, so it wouldn’t make any difference if your neighbor is elderly or not. A forceful response could be entirely justifiable.

If self-defense or defense of others is your plan when you’re facing assault charges, make sure that you fully discuss all of the details of your situation with your defense.

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