The biennial session of the Texas Legislature is mercifully over, and our esteemed governor has a few more days to decide which bills he wants to sign into law, and which he will veto.
One of the laws he rushed to sign is Senate Bill 378, the so-called “castle doctrine” bill, which supposedly gives more protection to homeowners and others who use deadly force to protect themselves. Others might refer to this as the “shoot first and ask questions later” bill.
The law takes effect September 1, 2007. Beginning then, Texans will be able to kill intruders who attempt to break into their homes, businesses or vehicles, and will be provided with a defense to prosecution for the use of deadly force and also provided civil immunity if the person using the force is not engaged in criminal activity at the time.
Now, I’m certainly not in favor of intruders, but Texas has always had adequate self-defense laws. We really don’t have to “shoot him and then drag him into the house” in order to avoid prosecution.
Under current law, a jury must believe that a reasonable person would have used deadly force in a particular situation. The new law creates a presumption that an individual acted reasonably in using deadly force in his or her home, business, or car.
The problem with this approach is that unless there is a witness, no one is ever going to be prosecuted for killing someone in or near the home, car, or business. I’m a big believer in the right of self-defense, but I doubt there have been many, if any, people wrongly convicted of murder in Texas where self-defense was a legitimate argument. Now, I fear there may be quite a few guilty people turned loose because the law presumed them to have killed in self-defense, and there were no witnesses to rebut that presumption. All you have to do is to lure your intended victim to your house, car, or business.