Results-Driven Personal Injury Firm in Beaumont, TX
Schedule a Consultation 409.226.0990
Committed to Results Because Your Victory is Our Victory

What You Need to Know about Self-Defense Laws

The use of self-defense is such an often-seen staple of TV shows, movies, and books that most people have probably taken a few moments before to ponder what they think about this issue. While the last thing our Beaumont personal injury lawyers want to do is chime in with personal opinions about high profile cases, we do want to take the time to provide a quick, crash course into self-defense laws so that our readers are better informed on the topic as a whole.

What Is Self-Defense?

Before we get more deeply into the specific principles of a self-defense plea, it is important to first establish just what exactly self-defense is from a legal standpoint. The most salient examples of self-defense tend to come up when one person kills another person and then claims that the act was self-defense. However, self-defense can also take place in a non-deadly context when one person uses more minor force, perhaps only injuring the other party, and then claims that their actions were self-defense and thus avoids assault and battery charges.

Self-defense can also be used as an argument in the defense of another person, for example, a mother defending her child. Some states also allow for the use of force in the defense of one’s home or personal property, though such laws vary. A central aspect of self-defense laws is that the person claiming the defense must be acting in response to an imminent threat and must not have other avenues open to them, such as retreating or calling the police. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.

The Five Principles of Self-Defense Laws

Once again it is important to note that self-defense laws vary from state to state as does the state’s interpretation of them. Additionally, specifics related to the case and the individuals involved may also come into play. However, that said the following five principles of self-defense are likely to come into play to some extent or another in most if not all states.

Principle 1: Innocence

This principle is fundamental in that it establishes that the person claiming self-defense, must indeed have actually been defending him or herself rather than initiating the violence. Generally, if the person is seen to have been the aggressor or otherwise "thrown the first punch" this would preclude him or her from a successful self-defense claim. However, there are certain instances in which the person can be said to regain their innocence.

Principle 2: Imminence

This principle is all about the urgency of the situation. For a successful self-defense claim to be made, it must be established that the threat was imminent and that the person had no other choice but to defend themselves forcefully. In this way, a self-defense claim cannot be “pre-emptive” to prevent a possible future threat. Instead, the person is expected to find another, non-violent solution. Similarly, the threat cannot have already occurred and ended, in which case later action by the victim would be seen as revenge rather than self-defense.

Principle 3: Proportionality

For the principle of proportionality in a self-defense claim to be the person making the claim must have acted in a way that is deemed proportional to the threat let. A threat of non-deadly violence should not be met with a self-defense of deadly violence. For instance, it would not be acceptable to shoot or stab a potential attacker who clearly only intended to slap or push the person making the self-defense claim. That would not be viewed as a proportional reaction. However, shoving or slapping the aggressor away would be seen as proportional and a claim of self-defense could perhaps be used to avoid an assault charge.

Principle 4: Avoidance

The principle of avoidance in self-defense claims states the person making the claim must not have been able to avoid their actions. This would include that the person did not have the opportunity to safely run away or otherwise escape the threat. However, the principle of avoidance is often one of the most contested because the interpretation of avoidance may vary and so too do state laws. Some states have “stand your ground” laws which do not require the person claiming self-defense to have first attempted to escape. Other laws in various states known as “castle laws” also state that the person is allowed to defend his or her home or other property. However, for a self-defense claim to be successful it will still have to be established that the person making the claim was not the aggressor.

Principle 5: Reasonableness

The principle of reasonableness requires that the person making the claim of self-defense had evaluated the circumstances in a way consistent with how a “reasonable person” would have done it. In other words, the person cannot shoot someone and claim that he or she thought the bouquet of flowers the person was holding was a gun, because a “reasonable person” wouldn’t have made that mistake. Along the same lines, a person cannot use self-defense and say they felt it was their only option if a “reasonable person” could have been expected to find a different, non-violent solution. Since this last principle is somewhat open to interpretation this is often the area of the case in which character witnesses and past history might be used to establish a pattern of behavior for either the victim or the aggressor.

Self-defense laws are complicated and, as mentioned above, they vary from state to state. That is why it is important to discuss your case thoroughly with your attorney and to always legitimately try to find a non-violent way out of a dangerous situation if possible. When trying to understand a self-defense case that you hear about in the news or media, it is also important to realize that in the heat of the moment people’s judgment and perceptions can be affected.

Focused on Our Clients

  • What he says he will do, he does it.

    “I would highly recommend Attorney Clay Dugas as an attorney because he is trustworthy...what he says he will do, he does it, His clients come first.”


  • If anything were to happen again I know that I can count on Attorney Dugas and his staff to take care of business.

    “After my surgery, Attorney Clay Dugas and his office were very supportive in helping me through it all. They took the time to keep me well informed on what was going on with my case. If anything were to happen again I know that I can count on him and his s”

    Wendi F.

  • I was extremely impressed with how aggressively he pursued our case and the level of detail put forth.

    “I was extremely impressed with how aggressively he pursued our case and the level of detail put forth. He took the time to explain everything and was always available when we had questions.”

    Former Client

  • Attorney Dugas made all the right calls and coordinated my case to a positive end.

    “Attorney Clay Dugas handled my case with confident grace. He knew what to do and when to do it. He made all the right calls and coordinated my case to a positive end. I wouldn't trust anyone else.”


  • Your staff represents you well. Even the receptionist knows me by voice.

    “I was very grateful for the tips you gave me. Many I will now use in other parts of my life. Your staff represents you well. Even the receptionist knows me by voice. ”

    Former Client

Legal Representation Beyond Expectation

Why Hire Clay Dugas and Associates
  • You Don't Pay Unless We Win

    Our clients are billed on a contingency basis, which means they don't pay if we don't win.

  • The 18-Wheeler Attorney

    Clay Dugas is a nationally-renowned expert on accidents involving 18-wheeler trucks.

  • Proven Track Record of Results

    Our firm continues to extend its over-40-year record of victories for our clients.

  • Client-Centric Representation

    We do everything in our power to provide our clients with the just recovery they deserve.

Awards &

  • US News & World Report Best Law Firms 2021
  • Clay Dugas Super Lawyers 2020
  • Martindale-Hubbell 2020 Award
  • Best Law Firms - U.S. News 2020
  • Top 20 Jury Verdicts
  • Top Texas Verdicts Settlement
  • Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  • Best Attorneys of America
  • Best Law Firms
  • LCA
  • Texas Board
  • Avvo Trucking Accident
  • BBB A+ Rating
  • Best Law Firms - 2019
  • Trial Lawyers Board of Regents Litigator Award
  • Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys Certification
  • Best Lawyers in America, 2014, 2015, 2017
  • Texas Super Lawyer, 2008 – 2020
  • Martindale Hubbell’s List of Preeminent Lawyers, 2005