Talking Points Booklet: Use-of-Force Protections
When our lives our threatened, we should be free to defend ourselves
In Texas, “deadly force” is defined as more than just an action that results in another person’s death. A weapon of deadly force can include a gun, a knife, a hammer, or even a person’s fists, particularly if the person is trained in fighting techniques. If the person using force intends to cause death or serious bodily injury or knows that the force could cause death or serious bodily injury, that counts as deadly force. Or, if the way that the person is using the force is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury, that also counts as deadly force. (See Texas Penal Code 9.01 (3)).
Texas law allows a person to use deadly force against another when and to the degree the person reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary to protect against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force. (See Texas Penal Code 9.32.) In other words, if someone is using unlawful deadly force against you, you are generally justified in using deadly force against that person if you must do so to protect yourself or a 3rd person – but you may only use as much force as you need to stop the threat.
A common way to think about this is to understand that, before you use deadly force, there must be ability, opportunity, and jeopardy. The attacker must have the physical ability to cause serious bodily injury or death (due to a weapon, special training, large size, or the number of companions). The attacker must have the opportunity to attack you – he must be close enough that you are in immediate danger. And you must be in jeopardy, which means that the attacker must be intent on causing you harm.
Also, a person is justified in using deadly force against another when and to the degree the person reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary to protect against aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.
Texas law presumes that a person is justified in using deadly force if the attacker is forcibly entering the person’s occupied home, vehicle, or place of business.
Stand Your Ground & Castle Doctrine
Texas recognizes Stand Your Ground, which means that as long as you are in a place you have a right to be, you did not provoke the person against whom the deadly force is used, and are not engaged in criminal activity, you have no duty to retreat. (See Texas Penal Code 9.32 (e).) In fact, if you use deadly force and your case goes to court, a jury will be instructed to not consider whether you could or should have retreated for any reason. Stand Your Ground is a much stronger protection than states which recognize merely the Castle Doctrine. On top of some powerful legal presumptions, the Castle Doctrine laws say that you have no duty to retreat if you are in your own home (or sometimes on your own property), but do not apply when you are somewhere else.
Deadly Force to Protect Property
Texas allows the use of deadly force to protect your property in limited circumstances, including when and to the degree a person reasonably believes that deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent someone else’s imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime – and only if the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means, or the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the person acting in defense or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
We support the existing provisions that allow Texans to use deadly force to defend themselves. We also support an expansion of use of force laws to ensure that Texans always are legally able to protect themselves, their families, and their property – including with a gun if necessary – if any attackers are intent on destroying them.
How We Talk About This
- Recently, the United States has seen significant rioting, arson, looting, and mob violence.
- Law enforcement is often blocked from responding or is stretched very thin and unable to respond in a timely manner to these situations.
- Often, a situation in which a burglar or violent mob starts with attacking property can spiral into murderous attacks on the lives of the people on that property.
- Families, businesses, and property owners have effectively used guns to stop criminals who were intent on destroying them, and to protect themselves.
- Texans should never have to worry about facing a criminal conviction and jail time simply for the choice to protect themselves, their families, their livelihoods, and their property with whatever level of force is necessary to stop a threat.
- SUPPORT: HB 796 by Rep. Phil King & SB 544 by Sen. Springer would add that deadly force is justifiable to protect against imminent commission of arson in an occupied home, building, or vehicle. It would also say that a threat to cause death or serious bodily injury by the exhibition of a weapon does not constitute deadly force, as long as the person exhibiting the weapon only intends to show that he will use deadly force if necessary. (Current law says “production” instead of “exhibition.”)
- OPPOSE: HB 196 by Rep. Meza would repeal “Stand Your Ground” Law, so that if you were anywhere except inside of your own home, you would have to try to retreat if possible before you could use deadly force to save your life.
See our updated bill list at txgoa.us/87r.
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