Self-Defense in Texas: Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground

Everyone has a right to feel safe in their home and in public. Although it’s rare that you will experience a physical attack or home invasion, when your life’s on the line, you don’t want to make concessions. Ending a life is something that can never be taken back, and the experience is traumatic. The last thing anyone wants during this difficult time is to stand before a court and explain that had no choice in the matter in order to survive. Understanding the laws that allow you to defend yourself is the first step in protecting your rights, property, and personal safety. 

What Are “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground?”

There are many legal similarities between the concepts of “castle doctrine” and “stand your ground.” Both are the right to use deadly force for protection, however, “castle doctrine” is the protection of your property, and “stand your ground” is the protection of yourself. There is a gray area in terms of what situations constitute the use of deadly force. Initially, the state of Texas enacted a “duty to retreat” law for self-defense. This meant that you had a duty to avoid conflict altogether and “retreat,” only using deadly force if absolutely necessary. By 1995, this law was changed to “castle doctrine,” then subsequently “stand your ground” was added in 2007. The logic was that if your life is in immediate danger, you should not have to back down and hope for the best. 

How To Know If You Have Crossed The Legal Boundary

The reality is that in any high-stress situation, it may be hard to nail down the facts. Initiating or participating in an argument that instigates violence may create a challenge when obtaining proof of self-defense. However, as an example, in the event that you and your family are driving in your car, and someone approaches with a gun intending to take your vehicle, end your life, or both, using deadly force could be considered justified. In the state of Texas, the case is sometimes dropped if law enforcement or the district attorney considers the series of events to be obviously self-defense. Although they have leeway on their judgment, their personal opinions and having prior convictions can sometimes get in the way. If someone is arrested and charged, in cases of self-defense, the burden of proof is on the defendant. If the defendant is able to provide some evidence that they were within their rights, then the prosecution must prove otherwise. Regardless of the circumstances, make sure that you come prepared with legal counsel. 

What To Do If Law Enforcement Is Not On Your Side

Law enforcement codes have outlined several scenarios where the use of deadly force is considered unlawful, or unjustified:

  • The use of lethal force in response to verbal provocation
  • Retaliation
  • Instigating violent altercation
  • Continuing to use deadly force even after the assailant has stated they are no longer a physical threat and acted accordingly
  • Both parties are actively committing a separate crime

Regardless of the circumstances, you have a right to legal counsel. At the Law Offices of Charles A. Banker, we understand that this is a traumatic event and you deserve empathetic and dedicated representation. If you or someone you know needs legal guidance on “stand your ground” or “castle doctrine,” contact the offices of Charles A. Banker for a consultation.

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The Law Offices of Charles A. Banker, III

Our firm’s founder, Charles A. Banker III, has been a solo criminal defense practitioner with offices in Houston and McAllen, TX for over 30 years. He understands what it means to work independently in today’s hyperconnected world, but he also knows that sometimes you need to lean on others.

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