Explained: Castle Doctrine vs. Stand Your Ground

The Castle Doctrine v. Stand Your Ground: Similar, but Different

            In Texas, the phrases “stand your ground” and “defend your castle” are often used interchangeably. Though the two doctrines may overlap when applied to the confines of one’s home, the right of self-defense is a broader right that may be applied anywhere force is necessary to prevent serious harm or death to oneself or someone else. Here are the distinctions.

The Castle Doctrine

            The Castle Doctrine is the broad, statutory right to defend your home or “castle” through the use of reasonable or even deadly force. Under Texas law, a person is justified in using force against a home intruder if the person believes that force is reasonably necessary to prevent the intruder from causing harm. The law also permits the use of force if an intruder enters a person’s vehicle or place of work.[1] Basically, this law can be summarized as: (1) permitting a person to defend against an intruder who uses force to unlawfully enter or attempt to enter the person’s occupied home, vehicle, or place of business; or (2) to use force against an intruder who attempts to unlawfully and forcibly remove a person from the person’s home, vehicle, or business.[2]

If an intruder unlawfully enters one of the above-listed locations with force, the law presumes that a person’s use of force is reasonable.

            Though the Castle Doctrine is broad, it is still subject to some limitations. For example, if an intruder is merely trespassing on a person’s land and has not tried to forcibly enter the person’s home, vehicle or business, it is not permissible to shoot the trespasser on sight. The landowner is permitted to brandish a weapon and demand the trespasser leave, but the landowner cannot actually discharge the weapon unless the trespasser responds with his own show of force and a self-defense situation arises. Similarly, if someone is just peeking into your windows and has not actually attempted to enter your home or vehicle, a use of force would not be justified.[3]

Though the law presumes that the use of force is reasonable under the Castle Doctrine, this presumption may be disregarded if it can be shown that force was used in an inappropriate manner.[4] In addition, even if use of force is ultimately found to be reasonable under the circumstances, a person may still be arrested and face trial before a court of law is able to definitively determine that the force was permitted.

Stand Your Ground

            Like the castle doctrine, Stand Your Ground is another statutory right to use reasonable force. Texas law allows a person to defend himself when threatened with bodily harm or death without having to first attempt to retreat. This right of defense for self or others is applicable wherever a person may be, and it is not limited to actions that occur in or on a person’s property.[5]

In many states, there is no duty to retreat when inside of one’s home (castle doctrine), but a person does have a duty to attempt to retreat or withdraw from a violent confrontation if it did not occur on his/her own property.[6] This is not the case in Texas. In Texas, Stand Your Ground permits the use of reasonable force in the defense of self or others in any setting without a duty to retreat first.[7]

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[1] Tex. Penal Code §§ 9.31, 9.32 (West 2017).

[2] Michele Byington, Understanding the Castle Doctrine, U.S. Shield L. (Sept. 11, 2016), https://blog.uslawshield.com/castle-doctrine/https://blog.uslawshield.com/castle-doctrine/.

[3] Brandon W. Barnett, Misunderstanding Stand Your Ground and the Castle Doctrine, Open Carry Tex. (Jan. 20, 2016), https://opencarrytexas.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/misunderstanding-stand-your-ground-and-the-castle-doctrine/.

[4] Denise M. Drake, The Castle Doctrine: An Expanding Right to Stand Your Ground, 39 St. Mary's L.J. 573, 590 (2008).

[5] Frank Johnson, Stand your ground laws protect your right to defend yourself, Tex. Def. Atty. (Mar. 24, 2017), http://www.texasdefenseattorney.com/blog/2017/03/stand-your-ground-laws-protect-your-right-to-defend-yourself.shtml.

[6] Michele Byington, Understanding the Castle Doctrine, U.S. Shield L. (Sept. 11, 2016), https://blog.uslawshield.com/castle-doctrine/https://blog.uslawshield.com/castle-doctrine/.

[7] Tex. Penal Code § 9.32(c) (West 2017).


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