In Texas, individuals are allowed to use deadly force to defend themselves, their property, or another person or their property under very specific situations. Deadly force means force intended or known by the actor to cause or in its reasonable intended use, can cause death or serious bodily injury. Shooting a firearm is deadly force.
The laws surrounding self-defense are complicated and it is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. If you have questions about shooting in self-defense, you should reach out to an experienced Sugar Land criminal defense attorney.
When are You Justified to Use Deadly Force to Defend Property in Texas?
There are limited circumstances where you can use deadly force to protect property in Texas. Under Texas law, you can use deadly force to prevent a person from committing arson, burglary, robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime under the following circumstances:
1. The property cannot be protected by any other means, or
2. The use of non-deadly force would expose the actor or another person to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
You are permitted to use force, but not deadly force, to stop someone from merely trespassing on your property. For example, imagine you wake up to a strange sound from outside your home. You look outside your window and see a masked man trying to break into your car. If you get your gun and fire a shot at the trespasser, you will likely face serious felony charges. The use of deadly force is not justified in this scenario.
However, continuing with the above example, if you go out your front door and instead of running away, the trespasser starts coming towards you with a weapon in their hand, shooting in self-defense may be justified.
A person does not have to retreat when they are justified in using deadly force against another person if:
• The actor has a right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used;
• The actor has not provoked the person against whom the deadly force is used; and
• The actor is not engaged in criminal activity at the time that the deadly force is used.
Furthermore, the judge or jury cannot consider whether the defendant failed to retreat when deciding whether the individual believed deadly force was necessary.
When is Deadly Force Justified in Defense of a Person in Texas?
Under Texas law, you are authorized to use deadly force against an attacker if you reasonably believe it is immediately necessary to protect yourself or another person against the attacker’s use (or attempted use) of unlawful deadly force. It is also justified to use deadly force to prevent aggravated kidnapping, murder, rape, or robbery.
For example, it may be self-defense if you shoot an intruder who broke into your home and pointed a gun at you. However, if an unarmed person is simply getting in your face and verbally provoking you (even if they say they are going to kill you), you cannot shoot them and claim self-defense.
When is Self-Defense Not Justified in Texas?
Examples of situations where shooting in self-defense is not justified in Texas include:
• In response verbal provocation alone;
• When resisting an arrest by a police officer; or
• If the person provoked the attack (unless the person attempts to leave the encounter and the attacker continued);
• If the person consented to the exact force used or attempted by the other (agreed to a fight); or
• If the person confronted the other person concerning their differences while possessing or transporting several different types of weapons.
Who Has the Burden to Prove Self-Defense in Texas?
In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proof. The state must provide evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant committed the crime. However, with self-defense, the defendant has the burden. The defendant must provide evidence that they were justified in shooting in self-defense.
If you were involved in a self-defense shooting, it is critical to get an attorney involved as soon as possible. If your attorney can provide evidence early on proving self-defense, prosecutors may decide to simply drop the case.
Your Sugar Land Criminal Defense Attorney
Adam Capetillo is an experienced Sugar Land criminal defense attorney passionate about protecting the gun rights of his clients. If you have questions about shooting in self-defense, we encourage you to call our office today at (346) 444-1299 to schedule a free consultation.