Texas removes duty to retreat

Edit: Okay, upon a further reading of the bill, it seems to me that the bill does two things:

  1. It removes the duty to retreat from buildings and vehicles. No longer do you have to try to retreat before retaliating.
  2. It creates a legal assumption that an intruder is there to cause death or great bodily harm and that victims have the right to use deadly force.

It is point 2 that I have the greatest problem with. That is a dangerous assumption to make.

Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law a bill that removes the duty to retreat and permits Texans to use deadly force in defending themselves in their homes, cars or workplaces.

The bill states that a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder before using deadly force. The building or vehicle must be occupied at the time for the deadly force provision to apply, and the person using force cannot provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity.

“The right to defend oneself from an imminent act of harm should not only be clearly defined in Texas law, but it is intuitive to human nature. You ought to be able to protect yourself,” Perry said.

What he’s missing is the point of the duty to retreat (brief Wikipedia blurb). The duty exists so as to avoid deadly force where possible. According to the duty to retreat, if you can get away from the attacker, you should, thereby obviating the need to retaliate using deadly force. Now we will have a free for all. Alaska, Florida and Kansas are among some other states that have passed similar legislation.

When Florida passed similar legislation in 2005, there was intense discussion on this blog. Here are the posts from way back when:

  1. Meet force with force: FL’s new self-defense statute
  2. Meet force with force: FL’s new self-defense statute – II

Reading the above posts should give you a good sense of how I felt back in the day and there is some very interesting discussion on those pages. Mike was disappointed with me then and I suspect he still will be disappointed, because I still don’t think it’s a good idea.

I looked to Grits to see if he had any comments on this, but there weren’t any I could locate. If I missed them, please leave a comment here with the link.

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7 thoughts on “Texas removes duty to retreat

  1. Gritsforbreakfast

    I haven’t focused on this bill, mostly because I don’t think it’s a significant change from current law the way courts have been interpreting it. I’ve never heard of anyone prosecuted for shooting a burglar in Texas, so the bill won’t affect much and doesn’t really bother me in the context of home invasion.

    Bottom line: If I wake up in the dark and somebody has broken into my home, they might get shot – how am I to know their intentions or whether they’re armed, until it’s too late?

  2. Gideon Post author

    Thanks for the comment. I wasn’t expecting outrage or anything, since I had read that the bill didn’t change much. I suspected that my opinion of this was ill-informed and I was looking to see if someone had explained it in a concise way.

    Given your explanation, I tend to agree. I don’t think it’s a huge deal. As a defense attorney, I probably should be happy that they have created such an assumption. I’m just wary of assumptions.

  3. AntonK

    “..now we’ll have a free for all.?

    Funny how there’s been no “free for all” in other places that have adopted similar laws.

    I, and most reasonable people agree that avoiding confrontation is always the more preferable and safe route for all. But to attach criminal and civil liability to the victim of a violent crime (home invasion, carjacking, etc…) because they didn’t retreat from the violent attack is obscene. Retreat can increase the time you are exposed to the attacker, among other things.

    Yes, get to your safe room in the top corner of the house if you can. But, if faced by your attacker before you can do that, stop them with deadly force if necessary.

  4. Steve Smith

    No sympathy here. Someone breaks into my house and I am there with my family or even alone, I am not going to go hustling out the back into the waiting arms of an accomplice. Any said intruders will and should get immediate lead poisoning. Now that the tough talk is over, I would also point out that in no state that has enacted such laws has had blood run in the streets as predicted. I’m sure someone can point to some tragedy, but no law is warranteed against a perfect outcome in every situation it is designed to address. Finally, in Britain, where the government has gone the furthest down the road to legalizing a regime in which every petty burgler can burgle with impunity because all guns have been taken and the government is actively prosecuting homeowners who do use deadly force, the crime rates have been soaring.

  5. Gideon Post author

    yes, the use of the phrase “a free for all” may be sensationalist, but I am highlighting the worst case scenario.

    Granted, other states (including FL) that have enacted similar laws have not seen an increase in violence, but the potential remains. This law doesn’t only remove the duty to retreat from one’s house, but also from one’s car. So conceivably, you don’t have to be “attacked” in the middle of the night.

    Yes, my objection is very limited, but I think I’ll stick by it for now.

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  7. JB from Nashville DUI Guide

    Yeah, I think “free for all” might push it a little. There may be a change, but I think most people are rational enough and dont want to use deadly force unless they have to.

    Im a little behind on this issue, but now that it has been a few months, was has been the result of the removal of the duty to retreat?


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