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Trayvon Martin Case Raises Questions: When Can San Antonio, Texas Residents Use Deadly Force?

trayvon.jpgStand Your Ground Law, Shoot First Law, Castle Doctrine, Make My Day Law, Defense of Habitation Law – There are many names across the United States used to describe the approved use of deadly force by a person who feels threatened. In the wake of the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, emotions on both sides of the proverbial fence have been running high. George Zimmerman, the man who fired the fatal shot that killed 17-year-old Martin, is being charged for second degree murder. The outcome of the trial remains to be seen, but the events surrounding both Martin and Zimmerman have many people asking the same question, what is a self-defense law? In Texas, the law is found under Chapter 9 of the Texas Penal Code.

In March 2007 Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 378, a law which allows Texans to use deadly force when they are threatened in their homes, cars, and public areas. The bill took effect September 1, 2007. This bill amended the previous law that had been in place. The biggest change to the law was the removal of a person’s “duty to retreat”. This means that Texans no longer have to make an attempt to leave a potentially dangerous situation before using deadly force in self-defense.

Chapter 9 of the Texas Penal Code clearly states when, where, and why force may be used by a person to defend themselves or others. In addition to protecting one’s own self from harm, the law states:
1. A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect a third person
2. A person is justified in using force, but not deadly force, against another when the force is immediately necessary to prevent the other from committing suicide or inflicting serious bodily injury to himself 3. A person is justified in using force against another when the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property
If a person decides that deadly force is warranted, there is no duty to retreat before using it. This means that a person who has a right to be at the place where the force is used, who has not initiated a confrontation, and who is not doing anything illegal is not required to retreat before using force as described. But, a person may not use deadly force because of verbal assault alone or to resist an arrest or search being made by a peace officer, even if the arrest or search is unlawful. In addition, a person can still be sued in a civil trial, even if the force was justified.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has worked for years against such Stand Your Ground legislation. The National Rifle Association maintains that these laws are necessary to protect citizens and their second amendment rights.

If you have been arrested, but were acting in self-defense or defense of another, contact Law Office of Dayna L. Jones at (210) 255-8525 to schedule an appointment with the attorney. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.