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When is an alleged assault really an attempt at self-defense?

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2024 | Assault |

It is generally illegal to intentionally hurt someone else or put them in fear of imminent physical harm. Police officers may arrest someone who appears to have intentionally attacked or intimidated another person. If there is sufficient evidence, prosecutors may bring assault charges against someone involved in an altercation.

Assault charges in Texas may lead to incarceration and fines. If the other party incurred injuries in the incident, there could also be the risk of a personal injury lawsuit. Someone who pleads guilty to assault charges leaves themselves at the mercy of the courts and possibly makes it harder to defend against a lawsuit in civil court.

Some situations that look like assault were actually attempts at self-defense. Asserting that someone acted in self-defense can potentially be a viable strategy when responding to assault charges.

Texas has strong self-defense laws

Some states place significant burdens on those claiming to act in self-defense. They may have to retreat before using physical force or may only be able to defend themselves in certain scenarios. Texas has relatively robust rules for those who need to act in self-defense. Anyone credibly in fear for their own safety can use physical force to protect themselves from an imminent threat. They can use the degree of force that they deem necessary, provided that a reasonable person would likely agree with their analysis of the situation.

Texas does not typically impose a duty to retreat if someone is in a location where they have the right to be. Individuals in their own homes have protection under the state’s castle doctrine law. Those in public spaces may have protection under the state’s stand-your-ground law. Texas grants people the right to use physical force, possibly including lethal force, for the protection of their personal property. Additionally, people can claim that they acted with the intent of defending others from imminent criminal activity.

A self-defense claim is different than other defense strategies because a defendant does not try to prove that they didn’t engage in physical violence. Instead, the goal is to convince the courts that they had a legal right to do so. Mounting an affirmative defense to assault charges often requires careful preparation. Those familiar with state statutes and the evidence that prosecutors have may find it easier to prepare for a criminal trial with the assistance of a skilled legal team.

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