Cases involving self-defense tend to be quite complicated, and many people wonder if they have the legal right to use force to protect themselves on their own property – and elsewhere. The fact is that the state’s castle doctrine provides you with the legal right to engage in force to protect yourself in your own home, but these rights are not without limitations. Having a better understanding of the castle doctrine can help you use self-defense to better protect yourself and your property within the limits of the law.
If you are facing a criminal charge that relates to protecting yourself in your own home (or another kind of self-defense charge), Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a dedicated Temple criminal Lawyer who has the experience, drive, and insight to help. For more information about how we can help, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.
What Protections Does the Texas Castle Doctrine Offer?
The castle doctrine relates to your legal right to use force as a form of self-defense in those situations in which you do not have a duty to retreat. Homeowners are a prime example. The fact is that you have no legal duty to retreat from your own home, which means you may be justified in using force to protect yourself from an armed intruder (for example). This is similarly true for business owners who protect themselves while in their own places of business. The law allows the deadly use of force as a form of self-defense in the following highly specific circumstances (in addition to protecting yourself in your own home):
You had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary.
You had the legal right to be on the property in question.
You did not provoke the person whom you used deadly force upon.
You were not engaged in a criminal pursuit when you used the deadly force.
Self-Defense in the State of Texas
A critical element of the castle doctrine in Texas is your ability to claim self-defense, which makes it important to understand what constitutes self-defense. In Texas, you are allowed to defend yourself with the use of force against someone else if you reasonably believe that the force in question is necessary to protect yourself from the other person’s attempted or actual use of unlawful violence. If the force you use reaches the level of deadly force, one of the following must apply for it to be considered self-defense:
You were in the process of being kidnapped (or you were kidnapped).
You credibly believed that the person whom you used deadly force against was attempting to rob, murder, kidnap, or sexually assault you.
You knew that the person whom you used deadly force against entered your home, business, or vehicle unlawfully and by force.
The Distinction between the Threat of Force and Deadly Force
The element of force is central to Texas’s castle doctrine, which makes understanding the distinction between the threat of force and actual deadly force important. The threat of force amounts to demonstrating – in a threatening way – that you have the ability, the inclination, and the weapon – to employ deadly force (that can cause serious injury or death) against the person whom you threaten in the course of your self-defense. Texas law considers the threat of force to be a precursor – or steppingstone – to deadly force. Deadly force means actually taking the next step and using the life-threatening force in question – whatever it may be – in the course of protecting yourself.
Stand Your Ground: FAQ
The castle doctrine is often referred to as a stand your ground law, and the answers to the most commonly asked questions related to standing your ground in the State of Texas can help you better understand what your rights are.
How Broad Are Texas’s Self-Defense Laws?
Texas used to impose a duty to retreat when it came to self-defense. This meant that the only way to justify deadly force was by demonstrating that a reasonable person could not have avoided the violent event (in the course of protecting himself or herself). In other words, the deadly force you used had to be the only way you could protect yourself. The castle doctrine was added in the 90s, and with this, the requirement to exhaust every self-defense option was dropped for those defending their own home or property. In 2007, the laws were expanded further still, and the requirement of retreating was dropped altogether – as long as you have the legal right to be where you are when you use force to defend yourself. As such, Texas’s self-defense laws are quite broad.
How Do I Prove Self-Defense?
The burden of proving self-defense is entirely on you (as the defendant). There is no free pass when it comes to self-defense in the State of Texas. This flips the burden of proof in the criminal process from being solely on the prosecution to being squarely on you.
Does Every Self-Defense Case Lead to Charges?
In Texas, the police and the district attorney have considerable discretion when it comes to bringing charges as they relate to self-defense cases. If the early evidence related to the crime makes self-defense the only plausible conclusion, the DA may not bring charges in the first place. In fact, if the DA believes that your actions were actually self-defense, it is his or her obligation as a prosecutor to uphold the responsibility of promoting justice (and not simply of attempting to rack up convictions) – and to forego bringing any charges as a result.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Temple Criminal Lawyer Today
If you are facing charges related to a self-defense case, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Temple, Texas, is an impressive criminal lawyer with a wealth of experience guiding difficult cases like yours toward favorable outcomes. Our dedicated legal team is on your side, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 to learn more about how we can help you today.