Assault is either causing physical harm to someone or threatening someone to the point where they could reasonably expect that they were about to sustain physical harm. No actual harm needs to occur for this crime to be charged; merely being indicating that you might harm someone is enough to warrant a charge in most instances. While assault charges wobble between being either a misdemeanor or felony, there are some defenses you could use to justify your actions and prove that no crime was committed. Perhaps the most obvious one is to argue that your actions were committed in what’s known as “affirmative defense,” which is a fancy way of essentially saying that they were done in order to defend yourself.
Here are the three ways in which affirmative defense can apply.
Defense of Self
The law does permit you to use physical assault against someone in order to defend yourself. Say for example you were being robbed at gunpoint. If you were able to act quickly and subdue the would-be attacker with a quick, swift punch to the jaw that knocks them unconscious, then you can argue that your actions prevented the robber from harming you. The evidence would greatly support that in this instance, since your attacker did have a gun that they were using to threaten bodily harm and intimidate you into handing over your valuables.
Defense of Others
Texas law also allows you to act in a way that prevents the bodily harm of others. Let’s use the previous example, only instead of you being robbed, it’s someone else near you on the street. If you’re able to act quickly and subdue the robber while the victim stands frozen in fear, you can argue that your assaulting the robber was done out of defense for the person being robbed.
Defense of Property
Finally, Texas also allows you to utilize force to defend your property. This one is a little bit more difficult to prove, but you are allowed to use force to do things like keep intruders or trespassers off your property, stop people from damaging your property, and whatever else you may find necessary. However, this one is a little bit trickier to utilize in that you must be able to definitively show that the person you assaulted in defending your property had the intent to damage, vandalize, steal, destroy, or in other ways harm your property.
One common principal that can be found throughout these types of cases is the idea of “proportionate force,” which essentially says the force you act with needs to be reasonable in relation to the physical harm that was dealt or threatened. In other words, you can’t use excessive force to defend yourself when the person initially threatening you wasn’t threatening that much force to begin with. For example, if you spot someone slapping their child abusively in a public place, you do not have the right to stop them with lethal force, or force that otherwise incapacitates them. While their actions might be absolutely inexcusable, it could be argued that your own use of excessive force could warrant criminal charges because of how excessive it was in comparison to the force being used in the first place.
This is also where property defense arguments can get tricky. What kind of force is “excessive” when the property that’s under threat is a certain value? Of greater or lesser value? It’s strongly advised you have a Plano criminal defense lawyer on your side when dealing with a case like this because you will need assistance arguing your side of the story. However, one thing can be said for certain: you more than likely won’t be able to justify using lethal force to keep trespassers off your property.
For more information, speak with The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. today! Call us at 214-544-0061 to request a case evaluation.