Florida’s infamous “stand your ground” rule made headlines in 2012 when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black man. However, Texas also has a rule that allows people to shoot in self-defense.
In Texas the law that allows people to use deadly force in some circumstances is called the “Castle Doctrine.”
A test of the doctrine came in South Austin where a man who feared for the safety of himself and his family killed a man who had ran away from a group home.
The TV station KXAN reported how the man went to a home in South Austin. He banged on the door and forced his way into the front entryway.
Police said the wife of the owner of the home told him about the previous banging on the door. He went to the front door. He fired his gun at the man who died outside the home.
Police said the husband and wife, as well as their three kids, were home at the time of the incident. The intruder was reported to be an autistic man who escaped from a group home.
Police did not file any charges against the homeowner, according to the report.
It’s not the first time Texas’ “Castle Doctrine” has been used when a perpetrator appeared to be confused. In 2014, a woman in the Houston area shot a man dead who she said was attempting to get through her front door.
The man turned out to be a neighbor, a Houston firefighter, who police said took a cab home after drinking at a bar with friends. He was dropped off at the wrong home and was intoxicated at the time. He mistakenly thought he was entering his own home when he was shot dead.
Under the Castle Doctrine, a person has no responsibility to run away from a scene in which they are legally justified to use deadly force.
However, there are limits. Kirk Evans, president of Texas Law Shield, recently told KXAN.
“Be very careful. You’ve got good rights in Texas, strong presumptions, but use them wisely,”
The mere fact someone is trespassing on your property is not adequate grounds to shoot them dead. However, if an intruder attempts to break into your home, you have a right to shoot in self defense.
The Castle Doctrine also applies to your workplace or your car.
These laws can be controversial and there are gray areas as illustrated by the Zimmerman case. The “stand your ground” law was not invoked by the defense in the Florida case. Zimmerman was acquitted due to other factors.
In Montana, an unarmed man who strode into a neighbor’s garage to confront him about an affair with his wife was controversially shot dead. No charges were filed because the state has a Castle Doctrine similar to that of Texas.
The doctrine makes it clear the shooter’s home is his or her castle. Nevertheless, there have been cases in which charges have been brought in similar circumstances.
A Fort Worth criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights and provide a staunch defense.