Castle Doctrine to Become a Bill

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Castle Doctrine to Become a Bill

Postby dglockster » Sat Oct 14, 2006 10:13 pm

Castle Doctrine to become Bill
From the October 13 Dallas Morning News:

Bill to seek 'castle doctrine' crime protection
Texas may join states that allow deadly force first against intruders


By BRANDON FORMBY / The Dallas Morning News

The way state Sen. Jeff Wentworth sees it, Texans should be allowed to do whatever is necessary to protect themselves and their property without facing prosecution.

Even if that means using deadly force as a first resort.

Mr. Wentworth, R-San Antonio, this week said he will author a bill that would give potential crime victims broader powers to protect themselves, their relatives and their property. It is patterned after a controversial Florida law passed last year that several states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are copying.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, is co-authoring the bill and said in a written statement that the proposal, if passed, means "you enter at your own risk" if you break into someone's home.

Essentially, the bill would legally establish the assumption that someone criminally entering a person's home, business or vehicle is there to cause death or great bodily harm and would allow potential victims to use any force – including deadly force – in retaliation.

The bill would also do away with the state's "duty to retreat" provision, which states that someone may not use deadly force if a reasonable person in the same situation would have retreated. And it would protect people from being sued by the criminals or relatives of criminals they injure or kill.

"If you break into my house with intent to commit a crime, I shouldn't have to calculate, 'Does he have a knife, does he have a gun, is the gun loaded,' " Mr. Wentworth said. "I ought to be able to protect my property and my family without worrying about those other things."

About 14 states – including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Michigan – have passed similar laws since Florida became the first state to do so last year. Dubbed "castle doctrine" laws, they are a derivative of English common law. The spirit of the castle doctrine has traditionally been upheld in court cases across the country. But Mr. Wentworth wants to see it on the books.

The laws are backed by the National Rifle Association, which gives them the moniker "stand your ground" laws because they allow possible crime victims who are in a place where they have a right to be to fight back without being second-guessed by courts.

"If this becomes law in Texas, it would put the law on the side of the victim, but not the criminal," said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the NRA.

But gun-control advocates – who have dubbed such bills "shoot first" laws – see things differently. Zach Ragbourn, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said case law already allows people to defend themselves. The castle doctrine laws are so broad, he said, that they allow people to kill someone and then tell law enforcement they were afraid for their safety at the time.

"The law only changes things for the bad guy," Mr. Ragbourn said. "The good guys already had the law on their side. All that's changed is there is now an extra defense for somebody who shoots somebody."

But Mr. Arulanandam said even if the doctrine is law, it doesn't mean law enforcement will take people's word at face value and let killers walk.

"Investigations will go on," he said. "The legal process will continue under this law. That's not how the American justice system works."

Mr. Ragbourn said Florida is already seeing cases in which people are trying to use the broadness of the law to get away with murder.

"It's tying the courts up in knots," he said.

Jerry Dowling, a criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University, said he doubts the bill would change much because Texas prosecutors and grand juries historically grant wide latitude to people defending themselves. The biggest change the bill would bring, he said, is protecting people from lawsuits for what the criminal code allows them to do.

In cases across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the legal system typically gives leeway to people who use force because they feel threatened.

A Dallas County jury in August acquitted a Louisiana man of murder after he said he fatally shot a man only because he thought the man was reaching for a gun. He was found not guilty even though a weapon was never recovered from the victim.

Property owners who injure or kill intruders are rarely arrested and typically have grand juries decide whether to criminally charge them.

That was the case when a 25-year-old man was fatally shot while trying to break into a woman's home in Buckner Terrace last year. Police also deferred to a grand jury the case of a church deacon who killed a man who was trying to break into The Church of Revelation in Oak Cliff in 2003.

"It just depends on the facts of the individual case," said Rachel Raya, spokeswoman for the Dallas County district attorney's office.

Mr. Wentworth said Texans and legislators have responded positively to the bill, which he hopes to pre-file next month for the 2007 legislative session.

"I've run into no opposition," Mr. Wentworth said. "Half of the people are surprised to find we don't already have that right."

He said the bill would prevent potential victims from having to second-guess themselves while forcing criminals to think twice before breaking the law.

"I think it will decrease the incentive some people have now to break into some people's houses," he said.

E-mail bformby@dallasnews.com


This will be a really important bill and a very hot topic in the upcoming legislative session. So if you live in Texas and as soon as you know the house and senate bill numbers for this legislation, please contact both your state representative and your state senator and tell them you expect their vote of approval on the Castle Doctrine for Texas.

As a law-abiding homeower the Castle Doctrine will prevent you from being victimized twice. Once when the BG breaks into your home and you defend life and property with your firearm and second, because neither the BG nor the BG's family can sue you for shooting the BG who broke into your home.

Most shootings in home break-ins are no-billed. However, a legal no-bill does not protect the shooter from a civil lawsuit filed by the BG or the BG's family - and such lawsuits can cost a homeowner thousands of dollars in attorney's fees. Under the Castle Doctrine, such civil lawsuits are not permitted.

Even the spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Zach Ragbourn, says, "The law only changes things for the bad guy. The good guys already had the law on their side. All that's changed is there is now an extra defense for somebody who shoots somebody."

It's the "there is now an extra defense for somebody who shoots somebody." part that the Brady Campaign and other gun control advocates dislike. The gun control groups prefer to have the shooter sued by the BG or the BG's family.
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Postby fadlan12 » Sat Oct 14, 2006 10:32 pm

Sounds good. I would certainly fear a civil suit even after a no bill shooting. It will be less headache for a person defending themselves legally.

Honestly I don't understand how you can be sued by someone who probably wasn't there (family member) after their relative is hurt or killed while breaking the law. Its like the self defense plea goes out the window if you have illegal weapons on you or in your car, they should do the same thing for criminals. If the BG is obviously breaking the law they get no reparations from you.
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Postby dglockster » Sun Oct 15, 2006 2:11 pm

Civil lawsuits are not uncommon after a shooting, not all of the time, but enough to be given serious consideration.

My CHL instructor said that in Texas you weren't usually found civilly liable, but that just the lawyer fees and such averaged $18,000.

If you have not read the book, In the Gravest Extreme, by Massad Ayoob, it's worth doing so.
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Civil defense?

Postby Rex B » Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:08 am

The Florida 'Castle Doctrine" law covers both the criminal and civil liabilities, say ing in essence "If you are no-billed or acquitted, you cannot be sued'. So far I have seen nothing to indicate that the proposed Texas statute covers the civil side.
Has anyone read the actual text and can comment one way or the other?
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Re: Castle Doctrine to Become a Bill

Postby barres » Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:32 am

dglockster wrote:Castle Doctrine to become Bill
From the October 13 Dallas Morning News:

Bill to seek 'castle doctrine' crime protection
Texas may join states that allow deadly force first against intruders


By BRANDON FORMBY / The Dallas Morning News

...

And it would protect people from being sued by the criminals or relatives of criminals they injure or kill.

...


We don't have any actual text because the bill hasn't been submitted, yet, but the article reports that the bill will protect defensive shooters from civil suits. :grin:
Remember, in a life-or-death situation, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

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Postby Piney » Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:25 am

Greetings--

Anyone have the bill ID/number? I"d like to contact my local Senator/Rep and get their opinions.

Thanks--
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I have asked

Postby Rex B » Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:27 am

I wrote Wentworth reqeusting a copy of the text. If I get it, I'll post it here.
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Postby Charles L. Cotton » Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:30 am

It won't have a bill number until it's pre-filed in November.

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Postby bluelineman » Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:46 pm

Will the TX House also be voting on this? I want to write a letter to my Senator (Estes), but also want to know if I should write a letter to my Rep as well (Laubenberg). Thanks.
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Postby age_ranger » Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:08 pm

If/when this is proposed, can you guys post the addresses/persons you're sontacting so I can write as well. I think other members might benifit from the info as well.......thanks in advance.
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Postby stevie_d_64 » Mon Oct 23, 2006 5:02 pm

age_ranger wrote:If/when this is proposed, can you guys post the addresses/persons you're sontacting so I can write as well. I think other members might benifit from the info as well.......thanks in advance.


I think we are all going to be over this like white on rice when it get filed and a number...

BTW, I really love that "enter at your own risk" statement...

I hope that gets a lot of airtime, because I pretty sure some people with criminal intent can't read...Much less comprehend the obvious...

Sorry, but my sarcastic side gets the best of me sometimes... ;-)
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Postby Charles L. Cotton » Mon Oct 23, 2006 5:22 pm

age_ranger wrote:If/when this is proposed, can you guys post the addresses/persons you're sontacting so I can write as well. I think other members might benifit from the info as well.......thanks in advance.


Absolutely. Timing is very important in getting legislation passed and the word will go out when it's time for calls and faxes.

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Postby ElGato » Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:59 pm

OOPS! Sorry about the timing, I made some calls already. :oops:
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Postby Liberty » Tue Oct 24, 2006 6:24 am

ElGato wrote:OOPS! Sorry about the timing, I made some calls already. :oops:

I'm hoping that your State Rep. won't even be there when the issue comes up. ;-)
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Postby barres » Tue Nov 14, 2006 1:55 am

Has this been pre-filed, yet? Any word on when that will happen?
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