The following is a video transcript.
You hear a noise and look out your window to see a hooded figure at your car, just before it breaks your driver’s side window! What are the laws of defending your property, when a person is breaking into your car on your property?
Defending Your Property
The Texas Penal Code explains when defending your property may be legally justified: Section 9.41 allows you to use force, but not deadly force, if you reasonably believe force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate a trespass or unlawful interference with your property (for example, breaking into an unoccupied car). Whereas, Section 9.42 explains when deadly force may be justified, such as to prevent or protect yourself from certain crimes, including burglary.
Note: Section 9.42 uses the word “burglary” in its most general form, whereas the Texas Penal Code contains several types of burglaries, including burglary of a habitation, vehicle, and even a coin-operated machine. Because Section 9.42 does not specify which burglary would justify the use of deadly force, when all is said and done, whether your actions were justified is a matter that may be left to a jury.
People Over Property
The law values lives over things. While a jury would likely find deadly force reasonable to defend against an armed burglar in your home, not all burglaries are created equal. While it’s largely accepted that deadly force is justified when there’s a burglary into a habitation or a building, the issue is unresolved when it comes to vehicles. Currently, there’s no relevant case law pertaining to the use of deadly force against someone breaking into a vehicle. A jury probably would not find shooting someone breaking into your unoccupied car at the end of your driveway reasonable under the circumstances.
Finally, we have to mention warning shots. Warning shots are often considered to be deadly force by judges and prosecutors. Firing a warning shot to scare off a potential burglar would not be justified unless deadly force would also be justified.
For more information about your legal rights to protect your property, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.