The death of a person in violent circumstances can lead to serious charges like manslaughter. However, the fact that someone was killed does not necessarily mean a crime was committed.
Manslaughter and self-defense
Self-defense is an available defense to manslaughter charges in Texas. The law says the use of deadly force against another person is justified when you know or have reason to believe:
- The person is breaking into your home, business or vehicle;
- The person is attempting to take you against your will from your home, business or vehicle; or
- The person is committing or attempting to commit one of several violent crimes, including murder, sexual assault and robbery
In addition, Texas law has no duty to retreat. In other states, you must not have been able to escape the danger the other person posed to you to justify using deadly force against them. In Texas, as long as you had the right to be at that location, you can use deadly force to protect yourself, regardless of whether retreat was possible.
Note that Texas makes an exception when the person who invokes self-defense as a justification for manslaughter provoked the other person, and when the person was engaged in criminal activity other than a traffic violation.
What to do when you are charged with manslaughter
Successfully establishing self-defense against manslaughter charges is challenging. The stakes are high and mistakes can lead to an unjust sentence that puts you behind bars for years. If you believe you acted in justifiable self-defense, you should discuss that in detail with your criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will review your story and the rest of the evidence to come up with the best possible defense.