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When is deadly force a viable option under Texas law?

There was a time when people never locked their doors. They trusted their neighbors and did not fear that strangers would want to harm them somehow. Sadly, those days are gone.

People lock their doors, but that does not always protect them from violence and harm. Texas law recognizes that you need to protect yourself and others with you as long as the law legally allows you to be present at the location in which the incident occurs. However, you may only use deadly force under certain circumstances.

Circumstances under which you may use deadly force

A homicide is the taking of a human life. It only becomes murder when you illegally take a life. Even though you do have a right to defend yourself, you cannot simply kill someone without a legal justification, such as one of the following:

  • If you believe an individual will commit one of the following crimes without your intervention:
    • Murder
    • Aggravated robbery
    • Robbery
    • Sexual assault
    • Aggravated sexual assault
    • Aggravated kidnapping
  • If you believe that an individual is attempting to enter your vehicle, home or business without permission
  • If you attempt to remove a person from your vehicle, home or business who was not supposed to be there
  • If you acted against an individual who placed the life of a third party in immediate jeopardy
  • If you provoked the other party and an altercation began, but you clearly abandoned the conflict and the other person did not
  • If a police officer uses more force than necessary even though you did not resist, but had to use deadly force to protect your life

As you can see, the law is rather broad when it comes to defining when you may take the life of another person. If you face charges in which you claim self-defense, you will need to provide compelling evidence that justifies your actions under the law.

Circumstances under which you may not use deadly force

On the other hand, the law goes on to identify situations and circumstances under which you may not use deadly force, including the following:

  • If you provoked the person verbally or through your actions, even if the law would otherwise sanction your use of deadly force under the circumstances
  • If you consented to the use of force by the other party
  • If you spoke with or demanded an explanation from the other person while he or she held a deadly weapon
  • If you use deadly force during an unlawful arrest or search by police
  • If you are attempting to stop someone from hurting him- or herself or from committing suicide

In the last instance, you may use force, but not deadly force, which makes sense. Again, there is room for interpretation of your circumstances.

Claiming self-defense in a homicide is not always as easy as it sounds. Police will undoubtedly want to verify your version of the facts. If any doubt exists that you were within your rights, you could end up in court fighting for your freedom. Fortunately, you do not have to do so alone.

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John M. Petruzzi, Attorney at Law
4900 Woodway Drive, Suite 745
Houston, Texas 77056

Toll Free: 888-386-4503
Phone: 713-581-1789
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