The following is a video transcript.
You hear a noise and look out your window to see a hooded figure at your car, just before it breaks your driver’s side window! What are the laws of defending your property, when a person is breaking into your car on your property?
Defending Your Property
The Texas Penal Code explains when defending your property may be legally justified: Section 9.41 allows you to use force, but not deadly force, if you reasonably believe force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate a trespass or unlawful interference with your property (for example, breaking into an unoccupied car). Whereas, Section 9.42 explains when deadly force may be justified, such as to prevent or protect yourself from certain crimes, including burglary.
Note: Section 9.42 uses the word “burglary” in its most general form, whereas the Texas Penal Code contains several types of burglaries, including burglary of a habitation, vehicle, and even a coin-operated machine. Because Section 9.42 does not specify which burglary would justify the use of deadly force, when all is said and done, whether your actions were justified is a matter that may be left to a jury.
People Over Property
The law values lives over things. While a jury would likely find deadly force reasonable to defend against an armed burglar in your home, not all burglaries are created equal. While it’s largely accepted that deadly force is justified when there’s a burglary into a habitation or a building, the issue is unresolved when it comes to vehicles. Currently, there’s no relevant case law pertaining to the use of deadly force against someone breaking into a vehicle. A jury probably would not find shooting someone breaking into your unoccupied car at the end of your driveway reasonable under the circumstances.
Finally, we have to mention warning shots. Warning shots are often considered to be deadly force by judges and prosecutors. Firing a warning shot to scare off a potential burglar would not be justified unless deadly force would also be justified.
For more information about your legal rights to protect your property, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
Thanks for the advice on “warning shots” being considered the use of deadly force.
So what constitutes force but not deadly force hand to hand ,baseball bat knife?
Just for your information, from my experience in being involved as an investigator into two incidents, maybe a bit of something similar. First, a shooter that fired a warning shot at a perpetrator, in court was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. A warning shot was considered as a “miss” to inflict deadly force when no threat of death or injury existed. Second was a home break in, owner shot the intruder inside his home which was an authorized legal defense. Yet the owner screwed the pooch when he was questioned by the powers that be, he stated that he had “shot to wound”. Which the jury determined that he did not actually feel or presume his life was being threatened, therefore the use of deadly force was not authorized. The home owner was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon to some degree.
All the more of reasons to call Law Shield immediately after 911 call.
Pray that it is never ever necessary.
It would be helpful to address the changes in applicability (Texas) of deadly force laws after sunset in cases of burglary on private property. I think the changes in Texas laws should be better explained. As a new member I’m a little disappointed in your not pointing out this distinction. It makes a BIG difference in Texas.
Member #: TX2094143