Call for a Free Consultation 888-403-0383

Self Defense

Defensive Use of Force - Self Defense Laws

The use of force or deadly force to protect people and property is justified under Texas law in certain circumstances.  A claim of self-defense is essentially an argument that your conduct was justified due to the specific situation in which you used force or deadly force.  

This page provides a brief overview of Texas law regarding self-defense.  However, the laws governing the use of force are complicated and have several limitations.  You should consult with an experienced attorney to find out how the law applies in your specific situation.

Self Defense

Defense of Another Person

Defense of Property

Do I have to retreat before using deadly force?

What is deadly force?

Self Defense

A person is justified in using force against another if they reasonably believe the force is immediately necessary to protect them against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful force.

A person is justified in using deadly force against another if they reasonably believe the deadly force is immediately necessary to protect them against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force.  Deadly force is also justified if a person reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent the imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.

Typically, self-defense claims hinge on whether a jury believes the use of force or deadly force was reasonable and immediately necessary under the specific facts of the situation.  However, there are some situations where the use of force or deadly force is specifically prohibited under Texas law.  These include:

  • In response to verbal provocation alone
  • To resist an arrest or search
  • If you consented to the force used against you
  • If you provoked the other person's use of force against you
  • If you seek to talk to someone about your differences while you are illegally carrying, possessing, or transporting a weapon
  • If you recklessly injure or kill an innocent third party while using justifiable force or deadly force against an assailant

Defense of Another Person

A person is justified in using force or deadly force against another to protect a third person if under the circumstances as the person reasonably believes them to be, they would be justified using force or deadly force to protect themself and they reasonably believe that their intervention is immediately necessary to protect the third person.

Defense of Property

A person is justified in using force against another if the person reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other person's trespass on the person's land or unlawful interference with the person's property.

A person who is unlawfully dispossessed of land or tangible, movable property by another is justified in using force against the other if the person reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to reenter the land or recover the property, but only if the person uses the force immediately or in fresh pursuit after the dispossession.  The use of force in this situation also requires that the person reasonably believe the other had no claim of right to the land or property or that the other person took the land or property by using force, threat, or fraud against the actor.

A person is justified in using deadly force against another if the person reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent the other's imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime.  The use of deadly force in this situation also requires that the person reasonably believe the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means or that the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the person or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.

A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property if the person reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property.  The use of deadly force in this situation also requires that the person reasonably believe the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means or that the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the person or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.

Do I have to retreat before using deadly force?

In most circumstances, Texas law does not require you to retreat before you can legally defend yourself.

Texas law states that “a person who has a right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used, who has not provoked the person against whom the deadly force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the deadly force is used is not required to retreat before using deadly force…”

If you meet these requirements, the jury isn't even allowed to consider whether you could have retreated when they are deciding if your conduct was reasonable.

You may still see some references to old laws that require a person to retreat before using deadly force.  This is because the laws about a duty to retreat have changed several times.  Before 1974, there was no duty to retreat in Texas.  In 1974, the law introduced a duty to retreat and allowed the use of deadly force only if a reasonable person in the same situation would not have retreated.  In 1995, Texas law changed again to remove the duty to retreat if a person was in their home.  In 2007, the law once again changed and removed the duty to retreat in all locations where a person has a right to be present, subject to the limitations discussed above.

What is deadly force?

Deadly force is defined under Texas law as, “force that is intended or known by the actor to cause, or in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing, death or serious bodily injury.”

Serious bodily injury is defined as, “bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”


You can read the full text of the laws related to self-defense in Texas HERE

If you or a loved one have been charged in connection with a defensive use of force, call 888-403-0883 to talk to an attorney about how the law applies in your specific situation.

Menu