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Common Legal Defenses in Texas

Ever wondered how some people manage to beat criminal charges and walk free? The answer often lies in the clever use of legal defenses. In Texas, understanding these defenses isn’t just for lawyers—it’s essential knowledge that could one day protect you or someone you know.

The Lone Star State offers a variety of ways to challenge criminal accusations. Together, let’s explore 18 common legal defenses in Texas that might just tip the scales of justice in your favor.

Understanding Legal Defenses

Before we delve into specific defenses, it’s important to understand the concept of legal defenses. A legal defense is a strategy used by a defendant in a criminal case to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and arguments. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution, who must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. By presenting a legal defense, the defendant aims to raise doubt about their guilt and avoid conviction.

Common Types of Criminal Defenses in Texas


A straightforward defense in a criminal case is declaring innocence, meaning you did not commit the crime you’re accused of. It’s important to know that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, which must establish every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

As the defendant, you don’t have to prove your innocence. However, you have the option to present evidence, such as testimonies or documents, to support your claim.

Lack of Probable Cause

In 1968, the US Supreme Court ruled in Terry vs. Ohio that officers can stop and search individuals without probable cause for an arrest, as long as they have specific facts justifying the stop.

If there’s a lack of probable cause, a defense can file a motion to suppress improperly obtained evidence, potentially leading to case dismissal. This is common in cases starting with traffic stops, where the police need probable cause to pull you over. Without it, any evidence found can be suppressed.


A simple defense strategy focuses on undermining the prosecution’s case by pointing out the insufficient evidence supporting the charges. This can include questioning the reliability of witnesses, disputing forensic evidence, or showing flaws in the investigative process.


In Texas, self-defense allows individuals to use force, including deadly force, to prevent harm if they reasonably believe it’s necessary. The “castle doctrine” permits force without a duty to retreat on one’s property. However, self-defense cannot be claimed if the defendant initiated the altercation or provoked it.

Similar rules apply to the defense of others, while the defense of property generally does not allow deadly force except in specific cases. Key elements include the defendant’s reasonable belief in the necessity of force and the proportionality of the force used.

False Accusation

False accusations can arise from mistaken identity, ulterior motives, or misunderstandings, with serious consequences for reputation and future prospects. Taking immediate action to defend oneself and clear one’s name is essential.

Common Reasons for False Accusations:

  1. Confusion leads to the wrong person being accused.
  2. Actions or words are misunderstood, resulting in false accusations.
  3. False accusations are made to harm someone’s reputation.
  4. Abuse of power by authorities, leading to wrongful charges.
  5. Forced or manipulated into making false accusations.

It’s important to recognize that these reasons are not exhaustive, and each case may have unique factors.


When the defendant raises an alibi defense, they are challenging the prosecution’s evidence and telling a different story. The defense must provide written notice that they plan to prove an alibi and say exactly where the defendant claims to have been when the crime happened.

To support an alibi, the defense team could also present alibi witnesses, such as family members, friends, or coworkers, who can testify about your whereabouts during the crime. They may also present additional evidence, such as surveillance footage or receipts, to bolster your alibi.

Constitutional Violation

In criminal trials, constitutional violation defenses challenge the legality of evidence collection by law enforcement, such as illegal search and seizure, failure to obtain a warrant, improper confession procedures, or failure to read Miranda Rights. These defenses can lead to the dismissal of the case if evidence is suppressed or if the prosecution’s case is deemed invalid. Police errors in procedure may result in these violations, highlighting the importance of recognizing and utilizing these defenses.


Entrapment is a legal defense where the defendant argues that they committed a crime because a government official pressured or forced them to do so, suggesting that the crime wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. Proving entrapment can be challenging, as the defendant must demonstrate that the idea to commit the crime originated from the government and that they were not predisposed to commit it.

This defense can only be used against government officials, not private individuals, and requires the defendant to prove its occurrence. Entrapment can involve coercion, fraud, harassment, inducement, or threats, where law enforcement officers misuse their authority to compel someone to commit a crime they wouldn’t have otherwise committed.


Mistake defenses in criminal cases can be categorized into two main types: mistake of fact and mistake of law.

  • Mistake of law involves a genuine belief, based on specific sources like official statements or court opinions, that the actions were legal.
  • Mistake of fact, on the other hand, occurs when the defendant misunderstands a factual situation, which negates the required culpability for the offense.

Both defenses require a reasonable basis for the mistake and can be crucial in asserting innocence, particularly when mens rea, or the guilty mind, is a key element in determining criminal intent.


Consent is crucial in many Texas criminal cases. It means the alleged victim agrees or approves of the actions, which can help avoid conviction. There are two types of consent:

  1. Express Consent: Clearly given through verbal or written agreement.
  2. Implied Consent: assumed based on the situation.

However, consent has limitations, especially in cases of serious bodily harm, foreseeable risks, and when minors or individuals with disabilities are involved. It cannot be used as a defense if there is intoxication, mental incapacity, or gang activities.


The accident defense argues that a person’s actions were unintentional and lacked criminal intent. To use this defense successfully, the defendant must show they were not criminally negligent and were acting lawfully at the time. This defense challenges the intent behind the act, which is crucial when intent needs to be proven.

Key points include:

  1. Contributory Negligence: The victim’s carelessness contributed to the accident.
  2. Comparative Negligence: Fault is shared based on each party’s responsibility.

Building a strong accident defense involves gathering evidence, proving lack of intent, highlighting contributory or comparative negligence, and consulting experts if needed.


The necessity defense justifies illegal actions if they were needed to prevent immediate danger, with no other legal options available, and if the defendant did not create the threat. Successfully using this defense can help avoid legal consequences.

There are two types of necessity defense:

  1. Private Necessity: Used to prevent greater harm, such as trespassing to avoid danger.
  2. Public Necessity: Used to protect the community from harm.

However, this defense cannot be used for financial hardship or actions clearly prohibited by law.


The duress defense in Texas applies when someone commits a crime due to immediate threats of death or severe injury to themselves or others. The defense requires a justifiable fear, a lack of reasonable escape, and that the defendant is not responsible for the situation. However, it cannot be used for all crimes, such as murder, and does not apply to threats of revealing damaging information or situations voluntarily entered into.

Double Jeopardy

Understanding double jeopardy is crucial because it prevents someone from being tried or punished multiple times for the same offense. This legal principle, based on the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution  means that once a person is acquitted or convicted of a crime, they cannot be tried again for that same offense.

Double jeopardy protects individuals from the stress, cost, and potential injustice of repeated trials, ensuring finality in criminal judgments. However, determining what counts as the same offense can be complex, often depending on the specific elements of the crime and the defendant’s conduct.

False Arrest

False arrest, also known as wrongful arrest, occurs when police detain someone without a valid legal reason or fail to follow proper procedures. While not every mistaken arrest is false, it becomes wrongful when police exceed their authority. This can include detaining someone willfully, without consent, or without lawful authority. Liability for false arrest can extend to those who instigate or direct the detention, requiring proof that the officer made the arrest at the instigator’s request.

Involuntary Intoxication

Involuntary intoxication can be a defense if someone unknowingly takes an alcohol or any other substance and, because of severe impairment, cannot understand their actions or follow the law. This applies when the person didn’t know they were ingesting the substance, were forced to take it, or were affected by a prescription drug without knowing its effects.

Abandonment or Withdrawal

Abandonment or withdrawal from a crime happens when someone decides on their own to stop participating in a criminal act before it takes place. This decision must be genuine and not because of external factors or fear of being caught. Legally, abandonment means completely giving up and ending criminal plans.

The abandonment defense is recognized in about half of United States jurisdictions. It depends on several key points:

  1. The person had no intent to break major rules.
  2. The danger is reduced when the crime is abandoned.
  3. The person did not have criminal intent.

However, there are situations where this defense may not be accepted:

  • The attempted crime still harms society.
  • Punishing attempts is necessary to deter future crimes.
  • Individuals attempting crimes can be dangerous.
  • The attempts are inherently risky.
  • Abandonment is influenced by the likelihood of being caught or police intervention.

Act of God

The Act of God Defense is used when natural disasters or uncontrollable events remove or reduce liability. Events like lightning strikes, heavy rain, and severe weather can be examples. To use this defense in Texas, the event must:

  • Be a natural disaster or uncontrollable event.
  • Be unpredictable and unavoidable.
  • Happen without human intervention.
  • Directly cause the incident.

Examples include earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. Building a strong defense involves collecting weather data, analyzing evidence, and getting expert testimony.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

Your knowledge of legal defenses could be the difference between freedom and conviction. Don’t wait until you’re in legal trouble; arm yourself with an understanding of your rights and legal options. Whether for yourself, a friend, or a family member, being informed about these defenses is an invaluable asset. Start today by learning more about your legal rights and seeking the guidance of a skilled criminal defense attorney when needed.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in Texas, it’s essential to seek legal counsel immediately. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your rights, evaluate your case, and determine the best defense strategy. Don’t wait until it’s too late; contact Texas Criminal Defense Group to protect your future.