Proving You Acted in Self-Defense in Texas

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Once someone is charged with using violence against another person, a common defense is that they were acting in self-defense. Many people claim self-defense after seriously injuring or killing someone else. But how can you prove that it was in fact self-defense after all?

Understanding Assault

In order to understand self-defense, it is beneficial to understand what is considered assault. Under Texas law, assault occurs when someone:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to someone, including a spouse;
  • Intentionally or knowingly threatens another person with imminent bodily injury, including a spouse; or
  • Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another person when they know or should have reasonably believed the other person would find the contact provocative or offensive.

Per the law, there are many different interactions that can qualify as assault. It doesn’t even require physical touch. 

Self-Defense 

While the person who initiates the act of throwing a punch or showing off a weapon is usually the one arrested, it is also dependent upon whether the other person showed off a weapon first. If the other person showed off a weapon or started trying to hit you, it would be understandable that you would try to protect yourself – even if it meant throwing punches back. 

How Can You Prove Self-Defense?

While every case is different depending upon its own facts, there are certain factors that a court and jury will look at in determining whether the defendant acted in self-defense.

  • Fear of bodily harm – The first factor that the court will look at in determining whether it was self-defense is whether a “reasonable” person would have also believed to be in physical danger at the time. 
  • Imminent threat – The second factor is whether there is a reasonable belief of serious injury or imminent death. In such a case you can argue self-defense. Still, the threat must be imminent. 

For instance, you can’t drive to someone’s place of work and physically harm him or her because they sent you a text message week and a half ago threatening you. It’s also important to note that if someone begins to assault you but then stops, you don’t have the legal right to assault them back afterward. Once an assault stops there no longer exists the need for self-defense. 

Another important thing to bear in mind when it comes to self-defense is that you can’t employ a disproportionate amount of force. For instance, if someone throws a book at you, you can’t attack him or her with a sword. In order for your actions to be considered self-defense, you must use the same or less amount of force that the other person used or threatened to use. 

The Attorneys at Ceja Law Firm Help Those in Houston Who Have Been Charged with Assault

Regardless of your specific set of facts, a successful claim of self-defense can be complicated and often requires a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney. If you have been charged with assault, it can have many serious consequences on your life. Your life should not be impacted because you were merely defending yourself. 

At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we understand the serious nature of such a criminal charge. That’s why we will work to help you obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.