Sun 29 Apr, 2012 10:38 am
Texas' ‘Castle Doctrine' Law Protects Our Citizens
By Texas State Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio)
Since the shooting death of teen-ager Trayvon Martin in Florida,
gun laws have been the subject of heated national debate.
Texas has a "Castle Doctrine" law, Senate Bill 378, which I wrote
and the Texas Legislature passed in 2007. Twenty-seven of my
fellow Texas state senators signed on as co-authors of the bill.
The "Castle Doctrine" comes from the common law principle that
people's homes are their castles, and they have the right to defend
themselves from criminal intruders.
The Texas law presumes that the use of force is reasonable and
necessary when someone is unlawfully and with force entering or
attempting to enter your occupied home, car, or place of business,
or when someone is committing or trying to commit a crime against you,
but Texas law, like Florida's, states that if a person has a
right to be present at a location where force is used, has not
provoked the person against whom the force is used, and is not
engaged in criminal activity at the time the force is used, is not
required to retreat before using force to protect himself or herself.
This means that if we are standing in our front yard, a mall, a grocery store,
or any place we have a right to be legally, we are not required by law
to retreat but may defend ourselves if attacked.
Our law clarifies that people are entitled to the presumption of
reasonable use of force to protect themselves.
This law was needed because many Texans believed that they
already had the legal right to use force in these situations.
My bill clarified that right and shifted the burden of proof under the law
to favor the intended victim instead of the criminal intruder or attacker.
Texans needed to know that the law is on their side when they
respond with force to an attack. Police may still investigate, and prosecutors
may still bring charges against a homeowner, driver, or business owner
if the facts surrounding a self-defense case are in question.
Under the old Texas law, we had a duty to attempt to retreat first
if we were attacked. Under our current "Castle Doctrine" law, we
may certainly retreat if we choose to do so, but there is no longer
a requirement to do so.
Finally, Texas law offers anyone who uses force authorized by law
some additional protection from civil lawsuits that could be filed by
injured criminal attackers or their families.
The law provides the crime victim immunity from civil liability from
lawsuits brought by the intruder or attacker for personal injury or
death that results from the lawful use of force.
Our state law affirms the rights of law-abiding Texans and puts
the law on their side when they respond with force to an attack
[All emfasis has been added by David.]