Understanding Valid Legal Defenses to a Crime in Texas

By January 30, 2014December 9th, 2020Criminal Defense

If you are facing a criminal charge in Tarrant County, Texas, your primary goal should be to stay out of jail and keep this criminal charged from becoming a conviction that will permanently stain your record. An experienced criminal attorney will analyze the facts of your case and explore all possible legal defenses that can lead to a not guilty verdict at a jury trial. It is critical to your defense that you have a basic understanding of how the Texas Penal Code defines valid defenses to a crime.

Texas Penal Code, Sections 8 and 9 address criminal defenses and the rules related to when and how they may be used in a jury trial. The Texas Penal Code makes a distinction as to when a citizen charged with a crime in Tarrant County, Texas is entitled to a jury instruction on a legal defense.

The first category identifies situations where the defense is entitled to a jury instruction. When raised by the evidence at trial, the defense is entitled to a jury instruction on the following issues:

  • Factual issues as to whether evidence was illegally obtained
  • Whether a citizen’s confession was given voluntarily
  • Any statutory defense

The second category identifies instances where the defense may be entitled to a jury instruction. When raised by the evidence at trial, the defense may be entitled to a jury instruction on the following:

  • Self-defense
  • Duress
  • Entrapment
  • Mistake of fact
  • Mistake of law
  • Insanity by involuntary intoxication
  • Protection of property
  • Necessity
  • Defense of others

Finally, the third category identifies instances where the defense is NOT entitled to a jury instruction:

  • Diminished capacity
  • Alibi defenses
  • Independent impulse
  • All other non-statutory defenses or justifications.


The most common defense used in the defense of criminal cases is the legal defense of self-defense. If you have been accused of assault, aggravated assault or any other type of assault-based offense and you were acting in self-defense, it is critical to your defense to understand what the State of Texas will have to prove and what limitations the law places upon your defense.

Generally, the burden of proving someone has committed a crime is always upon the State of Texas and the State is required to prove your guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So what happens if the defense brings up evidence supporting a claim of self-defense? In this instance, the State of Texas will then have the difficult task of proving that the citizen did not act in self-defense. Essentially, the prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the citizen did not act in self-defense. For example, it is possible to sustain a self-defense claim based upon the belief of the accused that he was under apparent danger. In other words, the accused may have never been attacked, but a person has a right to protect themselves against circumstances that create apparent danger to the same extent as if there were actual anger, provided he acts upon a reasonable apprehension of danger as it appears to him at the time.

On the other hand, if an accused citizen provoked the danger that led to the altercation, his right to an instruction on self-defense will be greatly limited. What about verbal threats? In other words, what if someone threatens to kill you and you turn around and shoot them? Under this scenario, you must have more than mere verbal threats to warrant the use of a self-defense claim in criminal court.


Under Texas Penal Code, Section 9.22, conduct is justified if: (1) the actor reasonably believes the conduct is immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm; (2) the disability and urgency of avoiding the harm clearly outweigh, according to ordinary standards of reasonableness, the harm sought to be prevented by the law proscribing the conduct; and (3) a legislative purpose to exclude the justification claimed for the conduct does not otherwise plainly appear.

In order to raise the defense of necessity, it requires the defense to admit to committing the crime and then offering necessity as a justification that weighs against punishment for the crime committed. However, if you place yourself in a position and then attempt to remove yourself from that position by a criminal act, you are not entitled to a jury instruction on the defense of necessity.

Making a determination as to whether your criminal case should be tried before a jury in Tarrant County, Texas should come only after long deliberation and counsel with your criminal attorney regarding possible legal defenses. At The Hampton Law Firm, I have handled thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases and can analyze the facts of your case and determine the legal defenses available to you and answer all of your questions so that you feel certain that you make the right decisions regarding your criminal case.

For a more thorough explanation of your legal rights and options under Texas law, call Jeff Hampton at The Hampton Law Firm at 817-877-5200.