You won’t find the words Castle Doctrine in any Texas law

With all of the discussion surrounding self defense recently, I hear a lot of people talking about the Castle Doctrine, Castle Law or Stand Your Ground Legislation.  The terms are really somewhat of a misnomer.   First, those terms don’t appear in any laws on the books in Texas or, to the best of my knowledge, the laws of any other state that has a similar law.  So, if there is really no such law as the “Castle Law” then what do people mean when they talk about it?

In the State of Texas, take a look at Penal Code 9.31 (Self Defense) and Penal Code 9.32 (Deadly Force in Defense of Person).  PC9.31  includes these two points.

(e)  A person who has a right to be present at the location where the force is used, who has not provoked the person against whom the force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the force is used is not required to retreat before using force as described by this section.

(f)  For purposes of Subsection (a), in determining whether an actor described by Subsection (e) reasonably believed that the use of force was necessary, a finder of fact may not consider whether the actor failed to retreat.

So, what does this mean?   It means that if a person is in their “castle”  (occupied home, vehicle, or place of business), did not provoke an attack, and is not engaged in criminal activity themselves at the time, a prosecutor cannot pursue a line of questioning on whether they could have escaped instead of using force or deadly force against the other person.

Lets try an example.   A person is at home.  They are not engaged in criminal activity.  They have not provoked or instigated an attack.  Some one kicks in the door of the house.  The homeowner reasonably believes the person breaking into the house is a threat to the safety of the occupants and shoots the intruder.  In a criminal trial,  the prosecutor cannot pursue a line of questioning to speculate on whether or not the person could have retreated or escaped rather than using force to stop a threat.   There is no obligation or requirement to retreat.

Now, this isn’t to say that leaving/retreating isn’t a good option.  It’s probably the best option if it is an option available.  However, that’s not the point.   The point is, the person who doesn’t retreat when threatened cannot be questioned on whether they COULD have retreated.  They don’t have an obligation or requirement to do so.   They don’t have to prove they didn’t have any other option.   How could some one prove for example that they couldn’t have jumped out of a third story apartment window and escaped instead of shooting the intruder?   That would be asking for speculation on what else might have stopped the attack.

That’s pretty much what all of the fuss is about.   The people who are trying to spin this as a “Kill at Will” law are engaging in either fantasy or politics rather than the facts of what these laws mean.  Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney.   Don’t consider any of this to be legal advice.  I’m pointing you to the statutes in the Texas laws and you should read and interpret them for yourself.  Consult with your legal counsel should you have any specific questions.

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