RSX11 wrote: ↑
Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:41 am
I was reading a news article about a recent armed robbery in Houston, and it made me wonder about a point in the law. A guy was loading groceries into his hatchback when he noticed an armed man was standing next to him. The robber pointed the gun at him and demanded his wallet, which he handed over. The gunman then took off.
Use of deadly force law says you can use deadly force to prevent the imminent commission of an armed robbery. If the victim chose to pull out a gun and shoot the robber in the back right as he was leaving - does that occur during the "imminent" part of the armed robbery? Or would it be considered to be part of attempting to recover property after the commission of the armed robbery? I figure he'd be good one way or the other, but I wondered which part of the law applied in this situation.
Firstly, my response is based on the Texas Penal Code, so other states will vary (Texas addresses this specifically, whereas most states I've looked at don't). Secondly, my Bachelor's in Criminal Justice is way short of being a lawyer.
Thirdly, I'm not advocating for or against shooting someone in the back after being the victim of a crime. I'm just laying out what Texas law actually says on the matter, from my non-lawyer perspective (ie, I'm-not-going-to-be-the-one-having-to-defend-you-in-court).
Robbery is listed under both TPC 9.32 (Deadly Force in Self Defense), AND in TPC 9.42 (Deadly Force in Defense of Property).
Under TPC 9.32, Robbery is listed as one of the offenses where your 'belief' that deadly force is immediately necessary is 'presumed reasonable'. (To be justified in using force/deadly force, a reasonable person standing in your shoes would need to believe that level of force is 'immediatly necessary'. This part of the statute basically says that when defending against certain crimes (murder/rape/robbery/burglary/home invasion/car jacking), that the 'belief that force/deadly force is immediately necessary' is already presumed to be reasonable). So, if he had used deadly force while the robber was in the act of robbing him (and absent any other factors that would neuter the victims self defense claim), it may have been justified. After the robbery was complete (ie, victim no longer in jeopardy), I would argue his 9.32 justification may have expired (again, barring absence of any other behavior threatening the defender with unlawful deadly force, or otherwise presumed reasonable).
Under 9.42, the justification to use deadly force to prevent a robbery is clearly listed. Again, once the robbery is over I would argue so is the justification for deadly force 'to prevent the robbery'. However, 9.42 also provides you with the justification of using deadly force to recover your property immediately following a robbery 'if using a lesser amount of force' to recover your property would put you or others at risk of death/serious bodily injury. So, if a lesser amount of force could be used and not put the defender at a significant risk of death/serious bodily injury, the justification might not be available.
I believe the recovery of property immediately after the robbery section of 9.42 is where the hypothetical you proposed would fall under, however it isn't always cut & dry. In your example the robber had a handgun, so I would like to think it would be easily understood that 'using a lesser amount of force' would put you at risk of death/serious bodily injury while exercising your right to recover your property. However, if the robber wasn't armed, and was of similar stature/ability as you, then you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you shot them while recovering your property.