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When Is Homicide Justified or Excusable?

Using physical or violent force might be necessary under specific circumstances, such as protecting against an attack. The most common reasons for excusing or justifying homicide in Texas are:

  • Self-defense
  • Defense of another person
  • Defense of third person
  • Protection of life or health
  • Defense of property


A person can use force against someone else when, and to the degree, they reasonably believe it is necessary to protect themselves against another’s attempted use or use of unlawful force.

The belief that the force is necessary is reasonable if a person knows or has reason to believe another person:

  • Unlawfully and forcefully entered or attempted to enter their occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of employment or business;
  • Unlawfully and with force removed or attempted to remove them from their habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment; or
  • Attempted to commit or committed murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, robbery, or aggravated robbery; and
  • The person using force must not have provoked the other person and must not have been engaged in criminal activity other than a class C misdemeanor violating an ordinance or law regulating traffic when they used the force.

Self-defense is not a justifiable reason for homicide if:

  • The action is in response to someone’s verbal provocation only;
  • The person uses force against another to resist search or arrest they know a peace officer or a person acting at a peace officer’s direction and in their presence is making even if the search or arrest is unlawful;
  • The person using force consented to another’s use or attempted use of exact force;
  • The person provoked someone’s attempted use or use of unlawful force unless they abandoned the encounter or clearly communicated their intent while reasonably believing they couldn’t safely abandon the encounter and the other person continued to or attempted to use unlawful force; or
  • The person sought a discussion with or explanation from another concerning their differences while carrying a weapon or transporting or possessing a weapon in violation of state law.

Defense of Another Person

Using deadly force in defense of another person is justified if the person using force would be justified in using force against someone under the self-defense statute and:

  • When and to the degree they reasonably believe the deadly force is necessary to protect themselves against someone else’s attempted use or use of unlawful deadly force; or
  • To prevent another person from committing robbery, aggravated robbery, murder, aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault.

Defense of Third Person

Using force or deadly force against another is justifiable to protect a third person if:

  • Under the circumstances the person using force reasonably believes, using force or deadly force would be justified under state law regarding self-defense or defense of another person against the unlawful force or unlawful deadly force they reasonably believe threatens a third person they’re protecting; and
  • The person using force believes intervening is necessary to protect the third person.

Protection of Life or Health

Someone can use force but not deadly force against another person when and to the degree they reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent another from inflicting serious bodily injury to themselves or committing suicide. Force and deadly force is justified if a person reasonably believes the force or deadly force is necessary to preserve someone else’s life in an emergency.

Defense of Property

Protecting one’s property might be another justification for homicide, depending on the circumstances. A person who lawfully possesses tangible, movable property or land can use force against another when, and to the degree, they reasonably believe the force is necessary to terminate or prevent the other person’s unlawful interference with the property or trespassing onto the land.

Using force is also justifiable against another for unlawfully dispossessing a person of land or tangible, movable property if the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to reenter their land or recover the property if using force immediately or in pursuit after the dispossession and:

  • They reasonably believe the other had no rights to the property during dispossession; or
  • The other person accomplished the dispossession using fraud, threat, or force.

Contact Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Now

At Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian, our Collin County criminal defense lawyers know the battle you face. Defending yourself against a homicide charge can be challenging. However, you don’t have to do it alone.

We know the legal strategies and defenses we can use to defend you. Multiple scenarios can justify homicide under the appropriate circumstances. You can count on us to fight for a lesser charge or work diligently to get your entire case dismissed.

If you were arrested or charged with homicide, call Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian at (972) 369-0577 today for your free initial consultation. Let us help protect your freedom and future.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : November 9, 2022