Threats as Justifiable Force – a defense to Felony Aggravated Assault

In Texas, we love our guns.  You almost have to assume that every motorist is carrying a handgun in their vehicles.  Furthermore, many gun enthusiasts love the idea of obtaining a license to carry, so that they can go about their lives with extra peace of mind.  This is all well and good, but even a law-abiding citizen can quickly find themselves embroiled in the criminal justice system as a criminal defendant based on nothing more than an allegation by someone a police officer happens to find credible.  Even worse, it’s possible for certain less experienced officers, and even prosecutors, to not have much training or knowledge as it relates to certain defenses under Texas law.  That information and knowledge gap often leads to wrongful arrests.

We recently had the pleasure of representing a middle-aged man with no violent history whatsoever.  He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly threatening to shoot someone over a dispute at a Houston area golf course.  The other man became angry with our client and made a beeline towards him on the golf course, aggressively swinging a golf club in the air like he intended to use it as a weapon.  Our client (holder of a license to carry) pulled his concealed handgun in an attempt to prevent the man from attacking him and his golf group.  Tensions continued to flare and the police arrested our client after a misinformed, shoddy investigation.

Fortunately, we were able to persuade the grand jury that there was no probable cause for this case to continue, because our client’s alleged assaultive conduct was actually justified and legal under Texas law.  They returned a “no bill” of indictment, effectively ending this nightmare for our client.  We are now working to expunge this arrest record.

Justification as a Defense

First of all, Texas Penal Code Section 9.02 provides that “it is a defense to prosecution that the conduct in question is justified under this chapter.”

Threats as Justifiable Force

Further, under Texas Penal Code Section 9.04, “the threat of force is justified when the use of force is justified.”

Under the prevailing Texas appellate case law, if a person reasonably believes that his show of willingness to use force is immediately necessary to protect himself or someone else against another person’s attempted use of unlawful force, the conduct is justified.  To be clear, a law-abiding citizen is under no obligation to wait to see if an apparently belligerent, hostile person is going to actually carry out a violent attack.  In that situation, a person is perfectly justified in brandishing a weapon and making a threat for the limited purpose of creating the apprehension that he or she will use deadly force if it becomes necessary.  See Gamino v. State, 537 S.W. 507 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017).

Fortunately, because of our thorough preparation, which included interviewing several witnesses, obtaining videos from third parties, and having our client take an independent polygraph examination, the Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PPLC was able to demonstrate for the grand jury that our client’s conduct was justified and legal.  If anything, his actions that day were measured and heroic, especially given the split-second decision making the situation demanded – from a private civilian no less.

These cases, and the defenses that may apply, are incredibly fact-specific.  Our experienced Houston aggravated assault lawyer is what you need to level the playing field and achieve justice.  Call or text Joseph Ruiz now to schedule a free case evaluation at 281-300-8695, and we can begin to formulate our plan of attack, leaving no stone unturned.