GUN USAGE FOR SELF-DEFENSE IN TEXAS
“Constitutional carry” legislation, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott and enacted in September 2021, allows most Texans, age 21 or older, to legally carry handguns in public without going through training or obtaining a permit. So far this year, there have been 10,742 arrests for weapons violations in Texas, compared to only 1,306 arrests just five years ago, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
This increase in arrests may be due to confusion about when someone can legally carry or use a weapon. We thought it might be helpful for this blog post to clarify some questions surrounding the new gun legislation in Texas and how it relates to self-defense law.
The new law permits open carry on all property that was legal under concealed carry laws. Businesses and private residences can opt out by posting notices on their property. Other types of property are automatically excluded, including schools, courthouses, bars, amusement parks, polling places, correctional facilities, secured areas of airports, and more. If you violate any of these prohibitions, you can be charged with criminal trespass and/or unlawful carry.
What’s more pertinent is the question of how open carry factors into self-defense. The basic answer is that Texas still observes two statutes for self-defense. One is called “Protection of Persons” and is commonly referred to as “stand your ground.” The other is “Protection of Property,” also known as the “castle doctrine.”
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a weapons crime or other crime when you believe you acted in self-defense, and you’re in or around Dallas or anywhere in North Texas, including Fort Worth, Denton, or McKinney, contact MC Criminal Law. Our attorneys are well versed and experienced in Texas’ self-defense and open carry laws and can mount a solid defense for you.
Self-Defense Laws in Texas
Texas Penal Code, Chapter 9, Subchapter C – “Protection of Persons” -- says that “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.” The section also allows the use of force to protect “a third person” or persons. In other words, you can “stand your ground” to defend yourself or come to the defense of others.
The same Subchapter in its section “Protection of Property” states that a “person in lawful possession of land or tangible, movable property is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other's trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property.”
The Castle Doctrine
You’ve probably heard the expression that “your home is your castle.” This section of the Texas Penal Code has come to be known as the “castle doctrine,” as it is in other states that follow the same legal principle. Your castle can be your home, your automobile, or your place of work.
These “protection” statutes specifically permit the use of force when the other party enters or attempts to enter with force into your residence, your car, or your place of employment, or attempts to forcibly remove you from any of these places. Force is also justified when you witness another person or persons committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.
The use of force is not permitted when you are only verbally provoked in the absence of force, when you provoke the other party, or when you yourself are in the process of committing a criminal activity.
Gun Usage in Self-Defense Situations
The use of force under Texas law must be reasonable and immediately necessary. This applies to the use of deadly force as well.
Reasonable generally means using only enough force justified to protect yourself, others, or your property. If you find someone trespassing on your property, for instance, you can use reasonable force to get the person to leave, but you cannot simply pull out your revolver and shoot the trespasser without another reason or cause.
Generally speaking, you can use or attempt to use deadly force in your home only if the intruder is attempting to commit arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime. You’d still have to show that your decision to use deadly force was both reasonable and immediately necessary, however.
The same holds true in situations outside your home. If you’re assaulted on a city sidewalk by a would-be robber, a forcible response might certainly be immediately necessary, but if you pull out your open-carry revolver and shoot the would-be robber in the chest, that may cross the line of reasonableness. It all depends on the circumstances. If you feared for your life, then deadly force might be a reasonable response.
In other words, your force cannot exceed the amount of force needed to defend yourself, defend others, or defend your property, and the person upon whom you exert force cannot be a poor match for you in terms of age, gender, or size.
Proving Self-Defense in Court
If you’re charged with a crime, the prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you committed the crime. However, if you want to use self-defense as a defense strategy, then you and your legal counsel must show that you meet the legal standards for self-defense in Texas. That is, your use of force must have been both immediately necessary and reasonable. Reasonable generally means a proportionate response.
Gun and Firearm Crime Attorneys in Dallas, Texas
If you find yourself being investigated for, or being charged with, a weapons or other violation in or around Dallas, Texas, or anywhere in North Texas, contact the attorneys at MC Criminal Law. We are committed to providing highly personalized legal guidance and representation to clients facing weapons and criminal charges of all kinds.
We understand the statutes regarding self-defense in Texas, and we have the experience and relationships in the criminal justice system to negotiate effectively with prosecutors. With 30 years of combined experience, we’re also prepared to present a vigorous defense in court, having tried more than 300 cases to a jury.
The sooner you get experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel on your side, the more your chances improve of achieving a more favorable outcome. Get us involved from the beginning, and let’s work together to exercise your rights.