It is hard to predict how we will act in a life or death situation until we are facing one. For some people, this situation arises when they are being held at gunpoint or are being assaulted. In these situations, sometimes it may feel like we have no other choice but to fight back to avoid harm. However, what happens when these actions lead to a death and subsequent manslaughter charges?
Facing manslaughter charges is a situation no one in Texas wants to be in. A conviction could lead to two to 20 years in a Texas penitentiary and/or a fine of up to $10,000. However, there are a variety of defenses to manslaughter charges, including self-defense. The following is a brief overview of self-defense laws in the Lone Star State.
“Stand your ground” laws
Texas law has adopted the “stand your ground” doctrine. Under this doctrine, if you have no other choice but to use violence in self-defense, you are no longer under a duty to retreat as long as you have a legal right to be in the place where you are defending yourself. Texas law also permits you to use force to stop certain crimes in progress at night.
Criminal charges are often dropped in self-defense cases
Per Texas law, prosecutors have a wide discretion regarding whether to pursue a case against a defendant who is claiming self-defense. If the evidence is in favor of the defendant, especially early on, prosecutors may drop the charges against the defendant altogether. In fact, according to one news website, in 2015 there were 146 self-defense shootings in the nation, but of those, only 12 people were charged with a crime.
Defendants bear the burden of proving self-defense
If your case does go to trial, and you are claiming self-defense, you bear the burden of proving this argument. This is the opposite of most criminal trials, in which the prosecution bears the burden of proving the defendant committed the crime at issue. Those arguing self-defense must submit evidence in favor of their argument that the prosecution will then try to counter.
Self-defense is only one argument against manslaughter charges
Ultimately, self-defense one argument you may consider in your defense against manslaughter charges. This post does not contain legal advice pertaining to any specific case. Those in Texas who are facing manslaughter charges but feel they only acted in self-defense will want to seek the assistance of a professional.