Justification Defenses

Were your actions justified?

After someone is arrested he or she may feel that what happened was justified. For example, the police may arrest only one person involved in a fight. The arrested individual will tell the police “he hit me first!” The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas, Dallas County, Texas recently clarified the procedural requirements of a justification defense. Before reaching the procedural aspects of a defense, a quick review of justifications is in order.

What is a justification?

If you are charged with a criminal offense there are many ways that a defense attorney may attack the case against you. He may show that the facts alleged, which make up the criminal charge, are insufficient. He may present an alibi. He may be able to suppress the evidence used against you. Among this list are justification defenses. A justification defense accepts that the facts and law would prove that you committed a crime, but the laws of the State of Texas exonerate you.

What are the justification defenses?

The Texas Legislature has codified all the justification defenses that are available to a person charged with a crime. If you read these laws you may notice that their application is very technical. Any misstep following the law will remove your ability to use a justification defense. The attorneys at Guest and Gray Law Firm are well versed in the use of justification defenses and, if relevant, can present them for you. Without getting into the specifics of how justification defenses should be applied, a brief list includes:

  • Self Defense
  • Defense of another person
  • Protecting another from suicide or self-inflicted injury
  • Protecting your property
  • Protecting another’s property
  • Using a device to protect property
  • Law enforcement conduct related to arrest and search, preventing escape, and
  • maintaining security in a correctional facility
  • Use of force against others by parents and educators, and
  • Use of force by guardians against an incompetent person who the guardian provides care.
What happens if I think a justification defense applies to me?

In Newman v. Texas the Fifth District Court of Appeals (Dallas County) was asked to review whether Michael Dewayne Newman’s case should be overturned when the trial court refused to instruct the jury on the justification of defense of property. Turning to the facts of Newman’s case. Newman believed that another resident in his apartment complex attempted to burglarize his apartment. During a confrontation between Newman and this individual, Newman told the court that he saw a third person on the balcony of his apartment. Newman stated that he recognized the man on the balcony as an accomplice to his neighbor. Believing that his property was in danger, Newman fired a warning shot towards the person on the balcony. During his trial testimony, Newman denied committing the acts that formed the criminal indictment while admitting to firing a gun at another unidentified individual.

Reviewing the laws governing whether a justification defense is available to a defendant, the Fifth District Court reiterated that a justification defense “does not negate any element of the offense, including the culpable intent; it only excuses what would otherwise constitute criminal conduct.” This statement requires a defendant who wants to pursue a justification defense in a difficult position. In order for you to use a justification defense you have to admit to the crime. Making this decision is not easy. It requires the type of experience the attorneys at Guest and Gray Law Firm have. What Newman failed to understand is that he could not excuse his conduct through the use of a justification defense and claim that he did not commit the crime. If a justification defense is available to you, you must admit that you committed the crime. Only after admitting that you committed the crime, will you be protected by the justification defense. If you were arrested and believe that a justification defense may apply to your case you need an experienced criminal defense team that knows the law and procedure. A successful defense based on a justification is no small matter. If you need help from experienced attorneys, then contact Guest and Gray Law Firm to set up a consultation.

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