Posted on 1/23/17

Criminal law does not criminalize emotional abuse and similar domestic violence. In fact, current law criminalizes batterers’ violence and explicit threats of violence but almost no other form of violence. In contrast, the law criminalizes financial, narcotics, and property crimes. In fact, violence constitutes a mere misdemeanor unless it involves “serious bodily injury” or weapons; even cigarette burns to one’s body might not rise to a felony.

Moreover, criminal law also fails to adequately address domestic violence in more particular ways. Criminal law does not recognize domestic violence as a pattern crime and instead treats it as individual, isolated incidents. Because of these inadequacies, the law fails to explain the nature of domestic violence to the public, instead dividing it into various parts.

However, one exception exists wherein the law shows significant interest in domestic violence: self-defense. When charged with an assault or murder crime, a defendant can posit self-defense as a defense to the crime.

Self-Defense in Texas

Texas law treats self-defense broadly. If attacked, a person hasno duty to retreat; instead, a person can “stand his ground” against an attacker. The right of self-defense allows for the use ofdeadly force if the self-defense was used to ward off possible deadly attack. In other words, the amount of force allowed in self-defense must be proportional to the initial attack.

Note that Texas law does not allow for self-defense if that person initiated the attack.

Right of Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases

The right of self-defense is an affirmative defense, meaning that the defendant, when invoking the defense, must prove that he or she acted in self-defense. This requires significant use of evidence, particularly of testimony, to set a foundation for self-defense.

Often, someone will act in self-defense based on a series of events that causes the defendant to feel threatened. Usually, a single incident will not compel a person to act or feel threatened with deadly force. Instead, domestic violence is based on a number of events.

Thus, a person claiming self-defense will be allowed to express how domestic violence compelled that person to act in his or her own defense in court. There have been many cases in which a woman claims that she suffered severe abuse from a man and felt that she had no choice but to use deadly force to thwart another assault. Such testimony is usually moving and happens when the defense attorney calls the woman to the stand. At times the defense will call other witnesses to testify regarding the relationship between the defendant and her husband or boyfriend. Those witnesses are usually family, friends, and acquaintances familiar with the circumstances. The defense may also call the man’s acquaintances to testify about his violent tendencies.

It seems that self-defense is when criminal law pays attention to domestic violence. If you have been accused of a crime, you need a lawyer who will vigorously defend your rights. The prosecution is often zealous to get a guilty verdict. Contact the law firm of Christopher Abel, an experienced criminal defense attorney.

(image courtesy of Matt Jones)


Flower Mound Office

Phone: 972.584.7837

Denton Office