You’re at home with your family one night when suddenly you hear a noise outside your door that sounds like an unwanted individual attempting to intrude. You don’t know his intentions nor his state of mind. The individual’s capability to inflict harm is also unknown at this time.
Obviously, your first priority is the safety of your family. And, if reasonably possible, you’d like your home and precious belonging to remain safe and secure as well.
This isn’t the time to have to ponder over Castle Law, self-defense, and what is legally defined as an intrusion. It’s best to know your rights in the event you’re confronted with a similar situation as mentioned above.
Another possibility is that you’ve already found yourself in a situation where you felt you had the right to self-defense.
In either case, what are your rights in Texas?
Why Is it Important to Know Your Rights?
Sadly, situations like the one mentioned at the outset aren’t incredibly rare or uncommon. The world is becoming increasingly more dangerous. Too, it seems like those who commit crimes are more and more willing to follow through with horrific acts.
At present, there is a 1 in 39 chance in the state of Texas that you or someone you know either has been or will be the victim of a property crime. Taking this to another level, there is a 1 in 228 chance in the state of Texas that you or someone you know either has been or will be the victim of a violent crime.
Of the 842,055 total violent crimes committed in Texas in 2017, 32,120 of these were robbery.
This being so, it’s no wonder people are growing more concerned with how they can maintain a high level of security at home for their loved ones.
Yet, at the same time, self-defense laws vary greatly from state to state. Gun laws change as does how the level of intent to commit harm is considered in the case of
This is why it’s important to know what applicable laws you should be concerned with if you find yourself to be the 1 of the 39.
What Exactly is Castle Law?
In many states, the law is written such that an individual has a duty to retreat first before using force of any kind against an individual they feel threatened by.
This means in these states it may not be considered self-defense if someone uses force against another person who intends to harm them if the threatened person has the ability to retreat to a place of safety.
In some states, this may even include retreating from one’s own home.
However, many other states have rather enacted Castle Law (also known as castle doctrine.
This law grants people the right to defend themselves and their families when they are within their home or another place they have the legal right to occupy. Even one’s automobile could fall under the definition of such a property one has the right to defend under this law.
Castle law enforces the idea that one should feel safe within their legal domain and have a right to defend themselves there without retreating.
One of the states that have enacted this legislation is Texas.
What to Know About Castle Law in Texas
While it’s important to know what castle doctrine in Texas is, it’s also important to know what it is not. As will all self-defense laws, Castle Law is complex and has a variety of conditions that could affect whether an act would fall under its definition or not.
Let’s take a look a some of the factors that could influence whether or not castle law gets enacted in certain situations.
A quick note for the rest of this article–the term “actor” refers to the person who acted in self-defense against another. This is the term used for this individual in Texas’ state law.
1. Provocation is Important
Self-defense is a law enabling innocent citizens to protect themselves from unprovoked harm.
Under Texas’ state Castle Law, a citizen may not be considered innocent if they first provoked an individual who then went on to attempt to harm them.
This is to protect individuals who initially had no intent to harm. Only when provoked did the situation escalate to one with the potential for violence. In this case, the burden of guilt for any violent action may well be placed more on the actor than the provoked person.
2. The Amount of Force Used is Meant to Counter the Potential for Serious Harm
Castle Law is also not free reign to use deadly force against anyone a person does not want on their property.
Under chapter 9, subsection 31 of Texas’ penal code, it lays out the conditions for using self-defense. It states that a person is only justified in using force against someone else when “the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force”.
When deadly force is used it must be in order to counteract the potential for actual serious harm, or “unlawful force” being done.
This point ties in nicely with the next factor to consider.
3. The Burden of Proof For Self-Defense Falls on the Actor
In many cases, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. Not so with self-defense cases. This responsibility here falls to the defense to prove that their belief they faced imminent harm was reasonable.
This is significant because “reasonable belief” is obviously going to be subjective in any situation.
To prove their use of force in self-defense was reasonable they would have to show evidence in this regard. The actor would likely need to show they knew or had reason to believe the following:
- A person unlawfully entered, or attempted entry, into their home, place of business, or vehicle through the use of force.
- A person unlawfully removed or attempted to remove the actor (or their family) from one of these places
- A person unlawfully committed or was attempting to commit, a violent crime. Kidnapping, assault, sexual assault, and robbery all fall into this category.
After You’ve Protected Your Family, Protect Your Rights With Legal Help
As mentioned at the outset, when you face a potentially dangerous situation, it’s not the time when the technicalities of Castle Law are going to be going through your brain.
We can also see that actually proving your right to self-defense can be an extremely complex process.
While you may have had to defend yourself alone once, defending your rights isn’t a fight you should have to take on alone.
To get the legal help you need in just such a situation, get in contact with our 5-star reviewed legal team.