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Imagine you’re walking to your car after a late night movie, when a masked man with a knife jumps in front of you and demands money. As he creeps closer, you have to decide, hand over your wallet, draw your concealed pistol and protect yourself, or run away. Here are three critical stand your ground rules in Texas.
Texas has a “no duty to retreat” rule, but the words “stand your ground” don’t appear in Texas law. These two terms are often used interchangeably though. Here’s how the law operates in Texas: The law-abiding person in the previous example may defend themselves against the masked knifeman without having to retreat, since they have a legally recognized justification and meet the other requirements of the “no duty to retreat” rule.
In Texas, you’re justified in using deadly force if you reasonably believe it’s immediately necessary to protect yourself from another’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force. Once that justification is established, so long as you’re in a place you’re legally allowed to be, didn’t provoke the attack, and you weren’t engaged in criminal activity, you have the protection of the “no duty to retreat” rule.
Thanks to this rule, a prosecutor can’t argue that you should have fallen back for defending yourself. As you might have guessed, you can lose this vital protection if you don’t meet the requirements.
Exceptions to The Rule
First, you will not be protected if you don’t have a legal right to be at the location where you use deadly force. Imagine you jump a fence to chase a deer down onto someone’s private land. The landowner approaches you with a holstered firearm and asks what you’re doing on his land, and he tells you to leave because you’re trespassing. If you used your firearm against the landowner, not only will the prosecutor be able to argue that your use of deadly force was not reasonable and not immediately necessary, but, they can also say you should have fled beforehand.
Second, you won’t be protected if you use deadly force after provoking someone. Picture a minor fender bender: You and the other driver stop and get out of your vehicles. You’re so angry about the crash that you challenge the other driver to a fight, knowing you have your concealed handgun with one in the chamber. When you get nose-to-nose with the other driver he pushes you back and you draw your gun and shoot him. You’ve lost your legal protection because you provoked the other driver.
Third, if you’re engaged in criminal activity when you use deadly force, you forfeit your legal protections under the “no duty to retreat” rule. Imagine if you go into a bar after a stressful day of work. You forget to remove your everyday carry gun and you become intoxicated. The resident tough guy starts to harass you and he breaks a beer bottle on the bar, turning it into a deadly weapon. Although you still have the right to defend yourself, if you draw your concealed weapon and fire in response, you may have to explain to the judge or jury why you didn’t try to run away first.
It’s very important to remember that stand your ground and castle doctrine laws vary from state to state. Just because you could legally shoot the masked knife man in our earlier example in Texas, does not mean you could do so in other states.
If you have other questions about Texas stand your ground laws, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.