Monday, April 2, 2012

The Texas "Castle" Doctrine

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian
No topic is more timely these days than the debate on state laws justifying lethal force in defense of one's person or property. In some states these are called, "stand your ground" laws, while in Texas, it is known as the "castle doctrine." (Penal Code Sections 9.01et. seq.)

The "castle doctrine" in Texas assumed its most controversial form in S.B. 378 passed by the Texas Legislature in 2007 in its 80th Regular Session. Click on the link to the bill where the Texas Legislative Reference Library has information on the bill's history, sponsors and reports from the Senate Research Center. The bill changed Texas Penal Code Sections 9.01, Definitions, and 9.31 and 9.32 Deadly Force in Defense of Person. Note that the LRL also has news and scholarly articles on the law.

The committee reports show that two important changes were made to existing law. The bill extended the right to use such force outside of one's the habitation to "...vehicle, place of business, or place of employment" and changed the burden of proof on the duty to retreat to the prosecution from the defense. Also, if the person on whom lethal force is used or his/her family brings a civil suit, the plaintiff must show that the person using deadly force had a duty to retreat before prevailing in the lawsuit.

The Fred Parks Library offers a research guide, Texas Legislative History Research, if you are interested in researching this or any other Texas law.