Can I Claim Self-Defense?

It’s no secret that Texas has some of the harshest criminal laws in the nation. For example, simple assault under Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code is usually a Class A misdemeanor, but if the offense was against a public servant, such as a police officer or a member of your household (your spouse or children), it’s a felony of the third degree.

The penalties for assault as a Class A misdemeanor under Section 12.21 of the Texas Penal Code include up to a $4,000 fine, or up to one year in jail, or both. As a third degree felony, the penalties for assault include up to a $10,000 fine and a prison term ranging from 2 to 10 years.

Family Violence Under Texas’ Assault Statutes

Let’s say that a husband and wife get into an argument and the husband punches the wife in the face. Under Sec. 22.01, the husband committed the offense of “assault” because he intentionally and recklessly caused bodily injury to his wife.

In contrast, if the husband happened to punch another man during a bar fight, he’d most likely be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, but since it was his wife that he punched, the prosecutor would be inclined to charge the husband with a felony of the third degree.

What if I was defending myself?

Whenever one of our clients is arrested and charged with assault or aggravated assault under the Texas Penal Code, the first thing we want to know is, “What really happened?” In our first meeting with our client, we’ll want to know:

  • Who started the fight?
  • Who ended the fight?
  • Who called the police?
  • What was the fight about?
  • Were you provoked?
  • Were you protecting a third party?
  • Is there a history of violence between you and the other party?
  • Is there a history of family/domestic violence (for couples)?
  • Were you defending yourself or someone else?

Fortunately, lawmakers understand that sometimes people get into fights because they are attacked or they have to step in and defend an innocent third party. For example, a man is in a parking lot and he sees another man punching his pregnant girlfriend.

In order to protect the attacker’s pregnant girlfriend, the innocent bystander steps in and tries to stop the attack. When the abusive boyfriend starts hitting the innocent bystander, the two get into a fistfight. The bystander was stronger, and he hit the boyfriend a few times until he was finally subdued.

In this situation, the innocent bystander was trying to protect the pregnant girlfriend and under Section 9.31, the bystander can claim “self-defense,” and it would likely be the boyfriend that would be convicted, not the “Good Samaritan.”

Claiming Self-Defense

Under Sec. 9.31 of the Texas Penal Code, people can claim self-defense under certain circumstances. Sometimes even, an innocent person is justified in using “deadly force” when they have to. Essentially, if someone else physically attacks you, you have the right to defend yourself.

If you are facing assault or aggravated assault charges in a case where you had to defend yourself or another person, please contact our Plano criminal defense attorneys for the aggressive defense representation you need and deserve!

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