Texas Castle Doctrine what does it mean?
Monday afternoon in Frisco, Texas, a 44-year-old door-to-door roofing solicitor was shot outside a Frisco home. The roofer was taken to the hospital after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. The assailant is currently being held in a Frisco Jail and has been charged with Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon.
Although it seems to be clear that this homeowner had no right to shoot a solicitor who was in no way jeopardizing the homeowner’s safety, the story does bring to mind the notion of the “Castle Doctrine” and the rights homeowners think they have to defend their property.
What is the Texas Castle Doctrine?
First, it’s important to note that you will not find the term “castle” anywhere in the Texas Penal Code. What the code does clarify is the justification for using non-deadly force (Texas Penal Code §9.31) and the justification for using deadly force (Texas Penal Code §9.31).
So what are you rights? Under Texas law, you have the right to use deadly force if the following occurs:
- To defend yourself against an intruder who enters your occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment.
- To stop an individual who unlawfully and with force, removes or attempts to remove you from your occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment.
What is considered your “castle”?
As mentioned above, the law does not use the term castle. So, what is considered your “castle”? Specifically, your habitation, which is defined as “a structure or vehicle adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons; and includes each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle; and each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle.”
Can I shoot a solicitor?
Now back to the Frisco story. Although some Texans might think that they have the right to use deadly force against anyone who is on their property without their permission, this is not true. In fact, although you may be allowed to use “reasonable force” to stop someone from trespassing on your land, you are not allowed to use deadly force.
What constitutes reasonable force, however, can get a bit tricky. For example, while courts have ruled that you may display a weapon for defensive purposes to create “apprehension in another person,” you are not legally justified in discharging the firearm.
For example, if a neighbor walks across your property you are not allowed to go outside and shoot them, even if they are trespassing (exceptions may exist if they are committing another crime such as aggravated robbery or arson). You can, however, walk outside, ask them to leave your property and display a gun.
If this same neighbor decides to break your window and climb inside your house, however, you may have the right to use deadly force against them.
What if I was legally justified in using deadly force?
Even if you are legally justified in using deadly force to protect yourself or your property it’s important to understand that you can still be arrested, charged and have to post bond before the government will even consider your defense of “legal justification.”
No one knows for sure why the Frisco homeowner decided to shoot a solicitor. And while there are laws that regulate soliciting, regulations vary by state. City laws may also dictate whether a solicitor is violating a city law by knocking on a door with a “No Soliciting” or “No Trespassing” sign.
So, what should you do if you want to stop solicitors. By all means put up a sign. In fact, you can also decide simply not to answer the door. You do not, however, have the right to shoot a solicitor just because they knocked on your door.
Decide to ignore the law and you can be charged with a 2nd degree felony and spend 2 to 20 years in prison and have to pay up to $10,000 in fines.
Note: In many cases, you also do not have the duty to retreat. In fact, under Texas Penal Code §9.32, you will be presumed to be legally justified in using deadly force if someone is “entering, attempting to enter, removing you or attempting to remove you from your occupied habitation, vehicle, or workplace.” Texas Penal Code §9.32 also states that you will be presumed to be justified in using deadly force if someone commits or attempts to commit: “aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.” In neither of these cases are you required to “find a way out” or try to escape.
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