Protecting yourself, loved ones, or your property from harm is probably an instinct for most people. However, doing so successfully isn’t always as easy as asking nicely. Using some type of force to fight off attackers and intruders is often necessary, and although you likely won’t think about the consequences in the moment, investigators will certainly want to hear your reasoning for how you chose to respond.


The law in Texas is clear about the difference between assault and self-defense. It outlines two different doctrines that may justify using force against another person, and it’s important for everyone to understand how these doctrines work so you can operate with a clear head during and after a potential threat.


The Stand Your Ground Doctrine

This states that a person doesn’t need to retreat before using deadly force, whether they are in their home, at work, or somewhere else, to protect themselves. However, the person being attacked must believe that retaliation is immediately necessary to protect themselves, and the level of force a person uses to defend themselves usually can’t exceed what is necessary to eliminate the threat. For example, you most likely could not claim self-defense if you fatally shot someone who threw a punch at you. A person claiming self-defense also needs to have a legal right to be in the place where the altercation occurred, meaning that trespassing would most likely invalidate the case.


The Castle Doctrine

This is a limited version of the Stand Your Ground Doctrine and basically translates to your right to “protect your castle.” Under the castle doctrine, you don’t have a duty to retreat before using deadly force if you are on your property.


Although you don’t need to run away if someone attacks you or breaks into your property, there are several cases when using force can still qualify as assault, which is defined as intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another. Threats may also count as assault under this definition.


Remember that the law recognizes self-defense as a form of assault. According to LaHood Norton Law Group, the crux of the argument is whether someone believes that physical force is necessary to protect themselves from the unlawful force of another. You still may be charged with assault in connection to actions you believe were self-defense. It’s also possible to think you were acting in self-defense when you actually committed an act of assault. Fight-or-flight mode often takes over in these situations, and that can lead a person to exercise too much force against their attacker or misinterpret the level of danger.


You might be wondering if self-defense can be claimed when you rise to the occasion to protect someone else from harm. You most likely will be safe from being convicted of assault for the same legal reasons outlined under self-defense law, but you would claim defense of others instead. You also would be held to the same limitations of self-defense law, meaning that you can’t go beyond what is necessary to eliminate the threat.


The difference between self-defense and assault can easily be boiled down to who the aggressor is and how the defender responds to the aggressor. Although the law sounds cut-and-dry about self-defense and assault, violent and unpredictable situations can play out in all sorts of ways.


Assault vs. self-defense cases can become complicated because there are usually multiple ways of examining the same altercation. The outcome of these cases can significantly impact your life, especially if your actions seriously harmed or killed the others involved in the altercation. If you have been charged with assault or are concerned that someone might pursue assault charges against you based on your actions, legal experts recommend retaining a lawyer.


LaHood Norton Law Group can fight for clients involved in cases related to assault and self-defense. The attorneys at LaHood Norton are former prosecutors turned defense attorneys, giving them the knowledge of how to operate on both sides of the courtroom. For a free consultation call 210-797-7700.




Texas a stand your ground state. In some cases, deadly force may be justified in self-defense. Deadly force can even be used to defend property

Texas’ self-defense law allows people to defend themselves when faced with unlawful force. However, the person has to reasonably believe

the force is immediately necessary.

The amount of force used in self-defense has to be reasonable. It cannot be disproportionate to the unlawful force threatened.