Evaluation of use of force laws in Texas: An Introduction
There have been 3 changes in Texas law regarding the duty to retreat. Before 1974, Texas did not enforce a duty to retreat upon its people. However, in 1973 the Texas Legislature revised the Texas Penal Code to create a duty to retreat prior to using deadly force. The statute change allowed the use of deadly force only if a logical person in the defendant’s situation would not have retreated. This change summarized the old common law principle of retreat to the wall.
If the judges established that he had not performed reasonably the defendant could not rely upon self-defense to the killing. The burden was on the defendant to prove he was reasonable in doing so.
In 1995 the Texas Legislature included the “castle doctrine” exception to the duty to retreat enforced by the 1973 statute. Section 9.32 (b) of the Texas Penal Code was revised to read: “The requirement enforced by paragraph (a)(2) does not relate to a actor who applies force against a person who is at the time of the use of force doing an offense of illegal entry in the home of the actor.” This exception to the duty to retreat only extended to the defendant’s place, not to any area he “has a right to be present.” The actor still had to prove that a sensible person would have thought that applying deadly force was a must, to avoid death or harm.
On 1st September, 2007, the Texas Legislature reinforced the “Castle Doctrine” and removed a big majority of the remaining duty to retreat before using lethal force (Texas Penal Code 2007). The bill was started to help potential victims of brutal crime the same safeguards outside of their home that, before the 2007 changes, were only available whilst inside their own home.
The bill helps the potential victims to focus only on protecting themselves, without worrying about potential liabilities for them if they should fail to retreat when a “reasonable person” would have retreated.
Generally, a person is permitted to apply force to protect himself, or another, from the use of force by another person. The main goal of self-defense took place to prevent punishment for activities which are judged essential in the circumstances (United States v. Peterson, 1973). Therefore, the steps of the actor to be justified, the amount of force used cannot go above that which is essential to stop the use of force by another person.
Self-defense may also validate the application of deadly force when the actor rationally thinks it is essential to avoid death or physical harm to himself or a third person (See Meeker, 2007).
Duty to Retreat
The big issue over the jurisdictions is whether a person has a duty to retreat before using deadly force. Self-defense differs from state to state and has been altered over time.
The law of retreat in fact started in the English common law. In the English common law, prior to persons could claim their