If you’re being attacked, you have the right to defend yourself. In fact, Texas has several laws on the books that clarify how self-defense is legal.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can hurt another person and claim self-defense in any situation. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between self-defense and assault.

Self-defense laws

Actions taken in self-defense are legal under what is often referred to as “stand your ground” laws. Except in certain cases, “a person is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force,” according to Texas law.

You might need to use force when:


  • A person is unlawfully attempting to or has successfully entered a business, vehicle, or home.
  • A person is attempting to remove someone from a business, vehicle, or home.
  • A person is attempting to commit robbery, kidnapping, sexual assault, or murder.


Texans are also allowed to defend their property under what is known as the Castle Doctrine. This means, when protecting their land or property (such as a vehicle), Texans can use force “to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property,” according to the statute.

If deadly force is a justified need for self-defense, Texas code says “there is no duty to retreat before using it.”

When is force not justified?

The law says there are four times when using force is not justified:


  • In response to only verbal attacks.
  • When the person using force is working as a police officer.
  • If the people involved consented to the force.
  • If someone starts a fight, provoking the other person to use force, and then claims self-defense.


In these cases, the person claiming self-defense could be subject to assault charges.

The courts can hold up or deny claims of self-defense, but it’s not an exact science. For example, if a person provokes someone but then “abandons the encounter, or clearly communicates his desire to abandon the encounter but reasonably believes he cannot safely abandon the encounter, and the other person continues or attempts to use unlawful force against the actor” then self-defense may be justified, according to information cited in the Texas Perspectives on Firearms Law published by the State Bar.

Claiming self-defense in court proceedings

When there is doubt as to whether someone’s actions were in self-defense or whether those actions were assault or murder, that person can be arrested. A judge or jury may then decide which side of the law the person was on.

“If the defendant claims self-defense and the issue is before the jury for deliberations, the prosecution must then establish that the defendant’s actions were not reasonable under the circumstances,” according to the State Bar of Texas.

To be considered self-defense, defendants must show that they used “only enough force as is necessary to neutralize the threat,” according to local law firm LaHood Norton Law Group.

Additionally, a prosecutor must show evidence of recklessness, intent, and knowledge on the part of the defendant.

“In the split-second decision-making of a life-or-death situation, most people will not demonstrate intent if they cause excessive damage to their assailant,” according to LaHood Norton.


If you’re facing assault charges, it’s important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can expertly represent your case. For more information and to schedule a free consultation, visit lahoodnorton.com