THE CASTLE DOCTRINE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!
Aug. 24, 2020
This is Dennis Boren, criminal defense attorney and former felony prosecutor. Today, I want to talk to you about the Castle Doctrine in Texas. Right now, I want to focus on the defense of persons, not property. Defense of property will be the subject of another post. I didn’t want to make this one too long.
DON’T TAMPER WITH THE EVIDENCE
First of all, don’t drag the body anywhere. If you shoot somebody, they’re going to be able to tell through forensics if you tried to move it. It just makes you look guilty of something, so don’t mess with the evidence. In fact, that could even be considered tampering with the evidence, which is a crime.
Let me tell you a little story to start with. The pastor of my church had a situation where in the middle of the night, someone was beating on his back door, wanting in. We’re talking in the wee hours, like two or three in the morning.
He got up with his gun, went to the back door, and the guy was yelling and screaming incoherently. Thankfully, this friend, the pastor didn’t shoot him. He could have, but he didn’t. And of course it’s much better if you don’t have to ever kill anybody or shoot them.
CAN YOU USE DEADLY FORCE TO PROTECT YOURSELF?
Can you use deadly force to protect your person? The answer is yes. Deadly force is anything you use that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death. Now, some things are deadly weapons per se, like guns, obviously. But other things can be deadly weapons just by the way they’re used. Even a belt can be used to strangle somebody, for example.
In Texas, you have no duty to retreat. Some people call this the stand-your-ground law. You can stand your ground in Texas. You do not have to retreat. In some states, you do have a specific duty to do that.
DETAILS ABOUT THE CASTLE DOCTRINE
The Castle Doctrine is actually somewhat of a misnomer because it also applies beyond your residence. By the way, whether you own or rent doesn’t matter as long as you have a right to be there. It also includes your business property and your vehicle.
Now, what needs to be true for the Castle Doctrine to apply? First, you need to reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to defend yourself. That means a person in a similar situation would or could believe what you came to believe regarding the necessity of using force, or deadly force.
In addition, you have to take this action immediately. You can’t wait. You can’t go and get a cup of coffee and come back and deal with it then. You need to be dealing with it when it’s happening.
You also can’t be the one that provoked the initial incident. It has to be something that you are innocent in, in that regard. You can’t be involved in any criminal activity yourself, so if you, for example, are trespassing on someone else’s property, even though that would be just a minor offense, this doctrine will not apply to you.
WHEN CAN YOU USE THE CASTLE DOCTRINE?
If you believe an intruder either entered by force or was there to do the specific things I’m about to enumerate, you can use the Castle Doctrine and use deadly force to protect your person and those around you.
For example, if you see a window broken out or a door kicked in, that will get you there. Let’s say they just walked in. The door is unlocked. If you reasonably believe that they’re there to commit sexual assault, robbery, kidnapping, or murder, you’re justified in using deadly force.
Let me just say, if somebody is in your house, you’re really not going to interrogate them or interview them as to why they’re there. I will submit to you that, particularly in Texas, if somebody is in your house, and you don’t know if they’re there to commit robbery or whatever, I believe you can definitely use deadly force.
USE CAUTION IF YOU DEFEND A FRIEND
You can also use it, as I mentioned earlier, to defend a friend, but only if the friend himself could claim self-defense. So, imagine you walk into a situation where your friend is in a fight, and you didn’t really see how the fight started. If your friend provoked the fight, and you use deadly force against the other party, you can be prosecuted.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
So I want you guys to know this, and to be aware of it. And please let others you care about know how this works. So share this post with them. This may be something that a lot of people have on their mind. And it does happen more than just a little bit.
And as I always tell you, if you’re ever engaged with a police officer, be aware that you should have your video app on your smartphone turned on, or at least your audio. And if you have questions about this, and any related subjects, please reach out to me, and I will be happy to respond. I hope this was helpful.