Defense of Others as an Affirmative Defense in Texas

Texas is home to some of the country's most expansive self-defense laws. Under Texas state law, you not only have the right to use force to protect yourself from harm but to protect others as well. Have you been arrested for a violent crime in Texas, but were simply acting in defense of a third person? You should not be punished for standing your ground and protecting the people you love. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for assistance with your criminal defense. We will fight to prove that your actions were justified under Texas self-defense law.

Texas Self-Defense Law

Sometimes the use of force against another person is necessary to protect ourselves, others, and our property from threats of danger. This use of force, under any other circumstances, would be considered criminal behavior. Texas law explains that the use of force can be justified if a defendant can prove that such force was necessary for protection.

This is what is known as an affirmative defense. Instead of denying that you committed an unlawful act, you explain that you had a legally justifiable reason for that behavior. When you argue self defense you have the burden of proving that your actions were justifiable under Texas law.

When is the Defense of Others Justified?

Texas law, as defined in Penal Code Section 9.33, states that “a person is justified in using force or deadly force against another to protect a third person” when:

  1. You believe the use of force is immediately necessary;
  2. To protect that third person against the use or attempted use of unlawful force; and
  3. You reasonably believe your intervention is required to protect that person.

Put another way, if you would have had the right to act in your own self-defense in a situation, you will likely be justified in protecting another person under the same circumstances.

When is the Use of Force is Immediately Necessary?

The use of force is only justified if you reasonably believe that it is immediately necessary to protect a third person from harm. This means that a threat must be imminent, immediate, and current. You cannot use force -- deadly or otherwise -- to protect a person from a past threat or future threat.

Texas law provides some clarity as to when the use of force will be considered “immediately necessary” for the purposes of self-defense (and the defense of others). You will be presumed to have had a reasonable belief that the use of force was immediately necessary to protect another person if:

  1. You knew or had reason to believe the aggressor was unlawfully entering (or attempting to enter) your home, vehicle, or place of employment.
  2. You knew or had reason to believe that the aggressor was removing or attempting to remove the third party from their home, vehicle, or place of business.
  3. You knew or had reason to believe the aggressor was committing or attempting to commit any of these crimes:

Did You Reasonably Believe Your Intervention Was Required?

How do you know if your belief that the use of force is necessary to protect a third person? The answer comes down to whether or not your intervention was reasonable. Reasonableness will depend on the facts and circumstances of your specific case.

Questions of fact are left to the jury. In order to determine if the use of force was immediately necessary, a jury will consider any evidence, facts, and testimony that is relevant to your case. They will likely be asked to consider whether an objectively reasonable person, acting under similar circumstances, would have also believed the use of force was immediately necessary to protect another person from harm.

To What Degree of Force Can You Use?

What degree of force will be justified when acting in defense of another person? Force is split into two categories: reasonable force and deadly force.

Reasonable Force

In most self-defense situations you are only justified in using the degree of force that is necessary to stop a threat. In other words, you can be justified in matching the level of force with which you (or another person) are being threatened.

Example: your friend is punched in the face at a local bar after getting into a verbal altercation with an aggressor. You see that the aggressor is raising his fist to hit your friend again. Using a knife to stab the aggressor would likely not be considered a reasonable use of force in defense of your friend. However, shoving the aggressor or punching him with your fists to stop the attack would likely be considered an appropriate show of force.

Deadly Force

Texas law does not prohibit the use of deadly force in defense of another person. However, the use of deadly force is only justifiable if it is used to thwart the use (or attempted use) of deadly force. Since you are justified in matching the degree of force with which you (or another person) are threatened, you can use deadly force to protect a third person from deadly force.

Example: your friend is involved in a verbal altercation in a bar. You see that the aggressor begins to charge at your friend with a knife drawn and you believe that he is about to attack your friend with deadly force. Using deadly force to stop the aggressor may be justifiable under these circumstances.

The use of deadly force may also be justifiable if you are attempted to stop an aggressor from committing a violent crime, such as aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, or robbery.

When Is the Use of Force to Defend Someone Else Not Justifiable?

There are certain times when the use of force is not justifiable under Texas law. The argument of self defense will not be successful if the use of force was used:

  1. In response to verbal provocation alone;
  2. In resistance to an unlawful search or arrest, unless the police officer used greater force than was necessary;
  3. When the third party consented to the use of force;
  4. After you or the third party provoked the violent situation (unless the intent to be violent was clearly abandoned), or
  5. If you or the third party was carrying a weapon in violation of §46.02 or possessing or transporting a weapon in violation of §46.05.

Arguing Defense of Others in Houston

You have the right to defend yourself and others from perceived threats of harm in Texas. You should not be punished for exercising this important right. If you have been arrested for using force against another person, but were simply acting to protect a third party, call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for help.

Our experienced Houston criminal defense attorneys will fight to prove that your actions were justifiable under Texas law. We will thoroughly investigate your case, gather evidence to support the fact that your actions were reasonable, and fight to protect your future. Call Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney Doug Murphy today at (713) 229-8333 to schedule a free consultation and learn more.

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If you are facing DWI or other criminal charges in Texas, contact our office today to discuss your case, so we can begin working on your defense. Please provide only your personal email and cell phone number so that we can immediately and confidentially communicate with you.