What Is the Castle Doctrine in Texas?

What Is the Castle Doctrine in Texas?The Castle Doctrine is a legal doctrine that designates an individual’s home (or, in some cases, vehicle or place of business) as a place in which that person has the legal right to defend themselves against an intruder without facing legal repercussions. Texas, with its strong emphasis on individual rights and property protection, has codified the Castle Doctrine into its laws. Understanding the Castle Doctrine is vital for homeowners in knowing their rights and responsibilities when it comes to defending their property.

The term “Castle Doctrine” originates from the ancient English common law principle that a person’s home is their castle, and they have the right to defend it against unlawful intruders. Over the years, this concept has been incorporated into the legal systems of many states in the US, including Texas, through legislative action.

Here at home, the Castle Doctrine is laid out in the Texas Penal Code, specifically under Section 9.32, which addresses the use of force in defense of property, and Section 9.31, which deals with the use of force in self-defense.

  • Defense of habitation (Section 9.32): Under the law, a person is justified in using force against another when and to the degree they reasonably believe that the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property.

If an individual unlawfully enters or attempts to enter a person’s habitation, vehicle, or place of business, or if they unlawfully remove or attempt to remove an individual from the aforementioned locations, the property owner or occupant may use force to protect their property.

  • Use of deadly force (Section 9.31): The use of deadly force is justified when an individual reasonably believes that it is immediately necessary to protect themselves against another’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force, to prevent the imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.

The Castle Doctrine does have some key considerations:

  • No duty to retreat: One of the fundamental principles of the Castle Doctrine is the “no duty to retreat” provision. This means that a person is not required to retreat from their home or property before using force or deadly force against an intruder.
  • Reasonable belief: The use of force or deadly force must be based on a reasonable belief that such action is immediately necessary to protect oneself or another person.
  • Protection of third parties: Texas law allows an individual to use force or deadly force to protect a third party in certain situations, provided that the individual reasonably believes that intervention is necessary to protect the third party.

While the Castle Doctrine provides you with legal protections when defending your home and property, it is not a blanket immunity from prosecution. If you use force or deadly force and are subsequently charged with a crime, you and your attorney may need to assert the Castle Doctrine as a defense in court. Here are some of the defenses our Copperas Cove criminal defense attorneys can potentially raise:

  • Justification: We can demonstrate that your actions were justified under the Castle Doctrine, meaning you had a reasonable belief that force or deadly force was necessary to prevent unlawful entry or protect against a threat of serious bodily injury or death.
  • Reasonableness: We show that your beliefs were objectively reasonable under the circumstances. Factors such as the nature of the threat, the size and age of the parties involved, and the time of day can all be considered in determining reasonableness.
  • No Aggressor: We also demonstrate that you were not the initial aggressor in the situation.

While the Castle Doctrine provides valuable protections for home and property owners, there are limitations and considerations to keep in mind:

  • Public vs. private property: The Castle Doctrine typically applies to a person’s home, vehicle, or place of business. It does not apply to public spaces or other people’s property.
  • Civil liability: Even if criminal charges are not filed or you are acquitted based on the Castle Doctrine, you may still face civil liability for injuries or damages caused during the incident.
  • Police investigation: Any use of force or deadly force will likely result in a police investigation. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you cooperate with law enforcement.

If you find yourself facing criminal charges related to the use of force or deadly force in defense of your home or property, you should consult with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys. We can help you understand your rights, defenses, and legal options under the Castle Doctrine and state law.

At Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, we understand the criminal defense process and have the skills and resources to help you through this challenging time in your life. Get started on your defense now. Just call our offices or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation with one of our Copperas Cove defense attorneys. We maintain an additional office in Killeen and proudly serve Belton, Harker Heights, Waco, Williamson County, Bell County, Coryell County, and McLennan County.