The Castle Doctrine, which gained attention in the state of Florida with the similar “Stand Your Ground” killing of Trayvon Martin, is present in one form or another in every state. In Texas, changes to that law in 2007 have increased the number of justifiable homicides in the state from 32 in 2006 to 48 in 2010.
The law allows Texans to protect their property, their safety, or the safety of their loved ones from someone else up to and including the use of deadly force.
Prior to 2007, you had a “duty to retreat.” This meant that you could use deadly force only if there was no way for you to retreat unscathed. The 2007 law change did away with this duty. Now, you have no legal requirement to try and get away before you opt for deadly force.
According to the Houston Chronicle, if someone is stealing out of your yard, says Sandra Thompson from the University of Houston Law Center, “you can kill them, if it’s reasonably necessary protecting your property.”
Many of the cases of justifiable homicide involve burglaries or thefts from a private residence. The home owner awakens to find their house is being burgled and they kill the offender. Or, as in one case, they find the $20 tip jar at their business being stolen and shoot the thief as they drive off in a getaway car.
“things police can’t shoot you for, your fellow citizens can,” said Marsha McCartney from the Texas Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, characterizing the law as “appalling.”
But those who invoke the Castle Doctrine, those who are forced to protect their property or home with violence, don’t necessarily find it an easy thing to do.
“It changed me. There is nothing cool about taking somebody’s life,” said one man who shot a would-be burglar in the middle of the night.
“It was a horrible experience, I just want to put it behind me,” said another who found someone gathering his valuables after he returned home from the grocery store. “I hated it happened. For him, it wasn’t worth it. For me, it wasn’t worth it – a losing situation for both people.”
The law is in place to give people the right and ability to protect their property and home from would-be criminals and from the law. Using a defense like this, however, isn’t as easy as it might seem.
A self-defense case involves proving to the courts that your law violation was justified by the circumstances at the time. Depending on the facts of your case, this could be difficult.
If you are charged with a crime, call us today. We can discuss different defense strategies and help determine what the best course of action is for your case.
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