What You Need to Know About Self-Defense Laws in Texas

Texas is just one of many states that have enacted “stand your ground” laws which remove the duty to retreat before using force to defend yourself. Florida passed the first stand your ground law 10 years ago, which George Zimmerman used in his defense for the shooting of Treyvon Martin, a case that generated enormous commentary on such laws.

Texas passed its own stand your ground law in 2007. It allows for the use of force “when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force.”

Prior to the enactment of that law, the use of deadly force was not justified in Texas if retreat was possible. Now, Texas law requires that prosecutors must prove that the use of deadly force was notself-defense instead of a defendant having to prove his or her claim of self-defense under the stand-your-ground statute.

Under Texas law, you can shoot someone if you reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to protect yourself from being killed or seriously injured. You also have the right to shoot someone if there is a threat of certain crimes like kidnapping or sexual assault. You also have no responsibility to retreat if you have the right to be where you are — for example, in your home, your vehicle or at work — and may use deadly force to stop “aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.”

In addition, Texas law has an unusual provision that gives you the right to use deadly force to prevent someone “who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property.”

However, Texas’ self-defense laws do not allow a person to use deadly force in reaction to verbal abuse or if a person has instigated the confrontation.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a boutique law firm focusing on large, complex business and criminal financial-related litigation, including white collar criminal defense, securities fraud, health care fraud investigation, criminal appeals and state criminal defense. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or dan@cogdell-law.com.