My good friends over at Texas Law Shield wrote this plain english explanation of these topics. I present it with their permission, and I give them full credit; "Dear Clients, Membersand Friends: Catchy terms like"Stand Your Ground" and the "Castle Doctrine" have becomecommon topics of dinner table discussions in recent months. With the mediafrenzy over the Trayvon Martin case, a nationwide debate over "Stand YourGround" laws has surfaced. The media acts very authoritative when theyglibly throw around the terms "Stand Your Ground" and "CastleDoctrine." However, these are not legal terms or standards when it comesto Texas law. You will not find the words "stand your ground" or"castle" anywhere in the Texas Penal Code. So what do these termsmean? In this newsletter, we are going to explain Texas' laws that are looselycalled the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground. What is the Texas CastleDoctrine? The "CastleDoctrine" is a concept that comes from the philosophy that every person isthe King or Queen of their home. Thus, there is never a need for the monarch ofthe kingdom to flee the castle before using force against an unlawful intruder.Texas Penal Code §9.31 (governing the justified use of non-deadly force) and§9.32 (governing the justified use of deadly force) are our state's version ofthe Castle Doctrine. Just proving that everything is bigger in Texas, our lawextends the "Castle Doctrine" beyond your residence to include youroccupied vehicle and workplace. Inside your"castle," under certain circumstances, Texas law presumes you actedreasonably and justifiably if you use force or deadly force to defend yourselfagainst an intruder who enters your occupied habitation, vehicle, or place ofbusiness or employment. What are the circumstances that will give you thisimportant legal presumption? The first is where an individual unlawfully andwith force, enters or attempts to enter your occupied habitation, vehicle orplace of business or employment. The second situation is if an individualunlawfully and with force, removes or attempts to remove you from your occupiedhabitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment. If you are ever confrontedwith either of these situations, Texas law will presume that you actedreasonably and were justified in using force or deadly force. Therefore, inorder for you to be convicted of any crime, a prosecutor would have to overcomethis presumption in order to prove that you did not act reasonably. Overcomingthis presumption is nearly an impossible task in a court of law. With regard to usingforce or deadly force to defend your "castle," the Texas Penal Codespecifically uses the word "habitation," not the words"building" or "property." Texas has a very limiteddefinition of what qualifies as a person's habitation. The "CastleDoctrine" does not cover your entire piece of property. The legal term"habitation" is defined by Texas Penal Code §30.01 as "a structureor vehicle adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons; and includeseach separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle; andeach structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle."This means structures that are detached from where you sleep at night are notconsidered to be your habitation. For example, Texas law does not consider yourdetached garage, shed, and/or barn part of your habitation. However, if yourgarage, front or back porch is connected to the structure containing yoursleeping quarters (as exists in many suburban communities), it is consideredpart of your habitation as defined by the Texas Penal Code. Yes, this slightdistinction in architectural design can affect your legal rights. Turning to the subjectof vehicles, Texas Penal Code §30.01 defines a vehicle "as any device, in,on, or by which any person or property is or may be propelled, moved, or drawnin the normal course of commerce or transportation." This is a very broaddefinition and appears to include anything that carries people or property fromone place to another, including cars, trucks, boats, airplanes, golf carts,etc. The important point to remember is that you or someone else must beoccupying the vehicle to be given the presumption of reasonableness under TexasPenal Code §9.31 and §9.32. What About People Whoare Only Trespassers? Make sure that you donot fall victim to the common misconception that the Castle Doctrine gives youcarte blanche to use deadly force merely because someone is on your property.It does not. Many people think that the law allows you to use deadly forceagainst a mere trespasser. In fact, Texas law says the exact opposite. TexasPenal Code §9.41 allows you to use force, not deadly force, that isreasonably necessary to prevent or terminate another's trespass on your land. You still have a legalright to exclude or remove trespassers from your land; however you are limitedto only using non-deadly force to do so. The use of force can have manydifferent manifestations, from physical confrontation to displaying a weapon.Texas Penal Code §9.04 states that for defensive purposes the display of aweapon in order to create apprehension in another person is considered a use offorce, not deadly force. That means if someone trespasses on your property, youmay display your firearm to create apprehension that you will use deadly forceif necessary. You will not be legally justified in discharging the firearm, butyou will be legally justified in displaying it to "createapprehension" under the law. Only if the trespasser is committing otheracts where the law states that you are justified in using deadly force wouldyou be allowed to discharge your firearm legally. For example, if you aresitting in your living room and see an individual peering in your window, youwill probably not be justified under Texas law in using deadly force againstthe suspicious person. However, if the same fellow breaks a window and climbsthrough, you will be legally justified in using deadly force under Texas PenalCode §9.32. If you see the same individual scoping out your detached barn, youwill not fall under Texas Penal Code §9.32, because it is not considered anoccupied habitation. Note under our examples you may very well be justifiedunder another section of the law in the use of deadly force, but not underTexas Penal Code §9.32, or what the media calls the "CastleDoctrine." What if a TrespasserStarts Committing Other Property Crimes? What about defense of property?The use of deadly force to protect property is contained in Texas Penal Code§9.42. This section of the law lays out a couple of scenarios where you arejustified in reasonably using deadly force to protect your property. The firstis if someone is committing trespass or interference with your property and youmust reasonably use deadly force to prevent arson, burglary, robbery,aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime or criminal mischief during thenighttime. If someone is unlawfully on your property and attempting to commitany of these crimes, you will gain the legal justification for using deadlyforce. The second scenario isthe law of recovering your property by using deadly force. Texas has a 3-prongtest that, if met, gives a justification in using deadly force to recoverstolen property. This test is as follows: (1) force is necessary to prevent orterminate another's trespass on land or unlawful interference with theproperty, (2) deadly force is reasonably necessary to prevent another who isimmediately fleeing after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, ortheft during the nighttime from escaping with the property, and (3) the personreasonably believes that the property cannot be recovered by any other method orthat the use of non-deadly force to recover the property would expose them to asubstantial risk of death or serious bodily injury. We as lawyers cannot stressenough that under this scenario, while the law may allow you to use deadlyforce - It Is Most Likely A Very Bad Idea! As you see, criminaltrespass alone is not one of the crimes listed in Texas Penal Code §9.42 oreven as part of the "Castle Doctrine" under §9.31 or §9.32. A merecriminal trespass may, however, evolve into one of the above crimes where youmay be justified in using deadly force to protect your property. Let's takeanother example, if someone decides to sit on your lawn, you holler at themfrom your bedroom window to "get off my property." If the trespasserrefuses to leave, you are almost certainly not justified in using deadly forceto remove him. But if that person sitting on your lawn gets up and chargestowards your bedroom window with a firearm and a crow bar, you will very likelybe legally justified in using deadly force to protect yourself and your home.His actions of charging you with a weapon make him more than just a trespasserunder Texas law.