The Lowdown

In November, Texas House Representative Terry Meza (Irving – D) introduced several bills, including House Bill 196. This bill will modify what is commonly known as the Castle Doctrine and will affect a Texan’s ability to defend themselves, their family, and property if passed.

This bill does not end Castle Doctrine or require a home/property owner flee their habitation during a robbery/aggravated robbery.

Criminal Acts

First, lets define several different crimes that deal with property. It is important to lay out what the different crimes are as it does impact where deadly force could be applied.

  • Sec. 30.02. Burglary – A person commits an offense if, without the effective consent of the owner, the person:
    1. enters a habitation, or a building (or any portion of a building) not then open to the public, with intent to commit a felony, theft, or an assault; or
    2. remains concealed, with intent to commit a felony, theft, or an assault, in a building or habitation; or
    3. enters a building or habitation and commits or attempts to commit a felony, theft, or an assault.
  • Sec. 31.03. Theft – A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.
  • Sec. 29.02. Robbery – A person commits an offense if, in the course of committing theft as defined in Chapter 31 and with intent to obtain or maintain control of the property, he:
    1. intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
    2. intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.
  • Sec. 29.03. Aggravated Robbery – A person commits an offense if he commits robbery as defined in Section 29.02, and he:
    1. causes serious bodily injury to another;
    2. uses or exhibits a deadly weapon; or
    3. causes bodily injury to another person or threatens or places another person in fear of imminent bodily injury or death, if the other person is:
      • 65 years of age or older; or
      • a disabled person.

Burglary is the unlawful entry to a building and may or may not involve theft of property. Theft, robbery, and aggravated robbery all involve theft but may not involve entering a building or habitation.

The difference between theft and robbery/aggravated robbery is theft involves no bodily injury in the commission of the crime whereas robbery/aggravated robbery involves the threat of or actual bodily injury in the act of committing theft.

There are numerous articles that explain the difference between the four different crimes. Here is a one article I found after a quick search.

Rep. Meza Defends Her Bill

Terry Meza, author of the bill, posted the following Twitter thread:

In her Twitter thread, Rep. Meza has provided an oversimplified reason for changing the law and is incorrect in her assertion that theft (“stealing someone’s lawn ornament”) is covered under Castle Doctrine in Texas.

Representative Meza is rightfully getting ratioed regarding her proposed bill, as it would require a home/property owner on their property to retreat to their habitation before deadly force could be legally applied. Under today’s law, Theft is not covered as a valid reason to respond with deadly force however robbery and aggravated robbery are.

New Text of the Castle Doctrine

relating to the use of deadly force in defense of a person or property. BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS: SECTION 1. Sections 9.32(a) and (c), Penal Code, are amended to read as follows: (a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another if the actor: (1) is [if the actor would be] justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31; [and] (2) is unable to safely retreat; and (3) [when and to the degree the actor] reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary: (A) to protect the actor against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or (B) to prevent the other's imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault[, robbery, or aggravated robbery]. (c) Notwithstanding Subsection (a)(2), a [A] person who is in the person's own habitation [has a right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used], who has not provoked the person against whom the deadly force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the deadly force is used is not required to retreat before using deadly force as described by this section.

Pieces of the above legislation in green are additions. Text that is red and crossed out is being removed from the bill. There are some other changes made in the bill and largely provide some clarification regarding the protection of property including a habitation plus the removal of gender specific wording.

Robbery and aggravated robbery could have very valid reasons for applying deadly force, especially since these two crimes involves the threat of or actual bodily injury. The removal of aggravated robbery is especially concerning as it involves serious bodily injury and/or the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon, such a gun or knife.

Meza’s bill could force a home/property owner to try to determine intent of an alleged criminal before applying deadly force.

Possible Cause of the Bill?

In 2007, Joe Horn fatality shot two burglars outside his neighbor’s home. This created a controversy regarding the Castle Doctrine and Texas laws regarding the application of deadly force to prevent or stop property crime. Joe Horn was cleared by a grand jury in 2008.

Odds Of The Bill Becoming Law

At this point, Rep. Meza’s bill will be lucky to make it out of committee.

Governor Abbott has stated that “the Castle Doctrine will not be reduced” and force Texas homeowners to retreat. It is safe to say that Gov. Abbott would not sign the bill into law.

This article will be updated if anything significant occurs regarding the submitted bill.