Josh Harper | May 12, 2021 | Texas Law
Using a gun to prevent someone from stealing your car is considered deadly force. Therefore, shooting someone who is trying to steal your car implicates Texas’ deadly force laws. While we have the right to defend ourselves and our property, we do not always have the right to use deadly force.
Protecting Your Property in Plano, Texas
Texas Penal Code §9.42 governs the use of deadly force to protect property. The code states that a person is justified in using deadly force against another person to protect tangible, movable property or land when the person is justified in using force under §9.41 of the Code.
However, the use of deadly force is only appropriate if a person “reasonably believes” that deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent the imminent commission of:
- Aggravated robbery
- Theft during the nighttime
- Criminal mischief during the nighttime
The Code also allows a person to use deadly force to prevent another person from fleeing with their property after an aggravated robbery, robbery, burglary, or theft during the nighttime.
However, the person must also “reasonably believe” that the property or land cannot be recovered or protected by “any other means” but deadly force.
The Problem with Reasonable Belief
As discussed above, the Code states that the person is justified in using deadly force if the person “reasonably believes” that:
- Deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent the imminent commission of one of the listed crimes; AND,
- The property or land cannot be protected or recovered by “any other means,” or the use of deadly force is necessary because the use of a lesser level of force could place the person or another person in danger of serious bodily injury or death.
A defendant may assert this section of the Code as a defense for shooting someone who was stealing their vehicle. However, a jury decides whether that use of force was reasonable. They also decide whether the property could have been protected or recovered by any other means than deadly force.
If you were not in imminent danger, it could be challenging to convince a jury that killing someone who is stealing your car was reasonable. For example, if someone is stealing your car and does not have a weapon, a jury might find that the car was not as valuable as the person’s life. Jurors may find that you could have called the police and reported the crime instead of taking a person’s life.
To be sure, the use of deadly force is allowed to protect property in Texas, including motor vehicles. But proving that deadly force was necessary can be tricky.
Can I Claim a Defense Under the Castle Doctrine?
Texas law allows a person to use deadly force to protect themselves in their home or vehicle. Therefore, the Castle Doctrine only applies if you were in your vehicle when someone tries to steal your car.
For instance, say someone tries to carjack you at a red light or in a parking lot after getting into your vehicle. You could use deadly force and claim the Castle Doctrine as self-defense.
What Should I Do if I Shoot Someone on My Property?
Texas laws are very clear. You do not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force when another person threatens you with imminent danger. You have the right to use deadly force to defend yourself against imminent serious bodily injury or death.
Regardless of the circumstances, if you shoot someone on your property, call 911 immediately. If you have an attorney, call your attorney while you wait for the police to arrive. It is best to have a criminal defense lawyer present when you answer questions about the shooting.
Even if you were justified in the use of deadly force, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. You could be charged with homicide or manslaughter. An attorney can help you prepare a defense to the charges using Texas self-defense laws and laws giving individuals the right to protect their land and property.