Castle Doctrine Law: Texas

In what is certain to be a pleasant surprise to some people, Utah is another state on our list that possesses strongly worded, modernized and highly refined Castle Doctrine statutes on the books.

flag of Texas on a wooden board

In fact, it is difficult to find a state that has laws that are more affirmative on the side of the defender and would-be victim than Utah’s.

Summarized, in Utah so long as a defender is acting on their own behalf on behalf of someone else who is being threatened with unlawful force that could result in great bodily injury or death ( or is facing down the ongoing or imminent commission of a forcible felony), then lethal force is justified in defense with no obligation to retreat or to attempt retreat prior to using said force in defense.

Castle Doctrine: Self Defense in Texas

But as you might imagine there are significantly more to know than just that short summary.

Get all of the details below and make sure to stick around after the end of the article so you can read the exact text of Utah’s Castle Doctrine statutes and other self-defense laws yourself.

Fast Facts

  • Prior to using otherwise justified force, including lethal force and self-defense, a person has no obligation to retreat or to attempt retreat in Utah so long as they are in or occupying any place legally.
  • Lethal force is justified in self-defense when a person is defending themselves or another from a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury due to the unlawful use of force against them or the third party by an attacker.
  • Similarly, the use of lethal force is also warranted in order to halt the ongoing commission or imminent commission of certain forcible felonies.
  • Note, the reasonableness of the defenders actions during the encounter will be judged and assessed in court by the Trier. There is not a presumption of fear of death or great bodily injury.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Utah

If you are already familiar with most pro-citizen states with strong self-defense laws, you’ll already be familiar with the basis of Utah’s Castle Doctrine law, with one key difference though we will get to below.

A citizen may resort to lethal force in self-defense in order to protect themselves or another person from the unlawful use of force employed by a third party that could result in death or great bodily injury.

In the same situation, lethal force may also be utilized to stop an ongoing forcible felony or the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

A forcible felony is something like murder, aggravated assault, sexual assault, burglary, rape, child molestation, etc.

All the above assumes that a person is in any place, including their home, dwelling, place of business or anywhere else that they have a legal, lawful right to be.

One may not claim self-defense if there are unlawfully occupying or otherwise entering a place they have no right to be.

Restrictions

A pretty big one, that is worth pointing out. Unlike many other states with Castle Doctrine laws, Utah does not presume under law the defenders reasonable belief that they could suffer death or great bodily injury at the hands of their attacker when occupying their home, dwelling or place of business.

As noted below in the included statutes the perceptions of the defender will be judged by the trier of fact in a court of law, and you had better believe that things are going to go to court in the aftermath of any use of lethal force in self-defense.

The factors that will be considered include:

  • the probability that the force the defender feared will be used against them would in fact result in serious bodily injury or death,
  • the immediacy of the perceived danger,
  • the nature of the danger,
  • the assailants criminal record, prior established propensity for violence, pattern of violence,
  • and the relationship between the parties if one in fact existed.

Also, as you probably know by now, self-defense may not be claimed and lethal force and self-defense particularly, whenever the defender was committing or preparing to commit any crime or was a participant in a combat by agreement, mutual combat or any other such encounter where they joined violence willingly.

Assessment

With one small exception, Utah is a great state when it comes to citizens rights to self-defense, and relies upon clear and unambiguous verbiage and its state statutes and its Castle Doctrine in particular.

Lethal force may be used in defense whenever a defender can articulate a reasonable belief that they or someone else might suffer death or great bodily injury at the hands of an assailant.

But, citizens must know that the facts and perceptions of the circumstances will be judged by the trier effect in a court of law after the encounter.

Relevant Utah Castle Doctrine Statutes

76-1-601. Definitions.

Unless otherwise provided, as used in this title:

(1) “Act” means a voluntary bodily movement and includes speech.

(2) “Actor” means a person whose criminal responsibility is in issue in a criminal action.

(3) “Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.

(4) “Conduct” means an act or omission.

(5) “Dangerous weapon” means:

(a) any item capable of causing death or serious bodily injury; or

(b) a facsimile or representation of the item, if:

(i) the actor’s use or apparent intended use of the item leads the victim to reasonably believe the item is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury; or

(ii) the actor represents to the victim verbally or in any other manner that he is in control of such an item.


(15) “Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury that creates or causes serious permanent disfigurement, protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or creates a substantial risk of death.

(16) “Substantial bodily injury” means bodily injury, not amounting to serious bodily injury, that creates or causes protracted physical pain, temporary disfigurement, or temporary loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

76-2-402. Force in defense of person — Forcible felony defined.

(1) As used in this section:

(a) “Forcible felony” means aggravated assault, mayhem, aggravated murder, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, rape of a child, object rape, object rape of a child, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and aggravated sexual assault as defined in Title 76, Chapter 5, Offenses Against the Person, and arson, robbery, and burglary as defined in Title 76, Chapter 6, Offenses Against Property.

(b) “Forcible felony” includes any other felony offense that involves the use of force or violence against an individual that poses a substantial danger of death or serious bodily injury.

(c) “Forcible felony” does not include burglary of a vehicle, as defined in Section 76-6-204, unless the vehicle is occupied at the time unlawful entry is made or attempted.

(2)

(a) An individual is justified in threatening or using force against another individual when and to the extent that the individual reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the individual or another individual against the imminent use of unlawful force.

(b) An individual is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the individual reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the individual or another individual as a result of imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

(3)

(a) An individual is not justified in using force under the circumstances specified in Subsection (2) if the individual:

(i) initially provokes the use of force against another individual with the intent to use force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the other individual;

(ii) is attempting to commit, committing, or fleeing after the commission or attempted commission of a felony , unless the use of force is a reasonable response to factors unrelated to the commission, attempted commission, or fleeing after the commission of that felony ; or

(iii) was the aggressor or was engaged in a combat by agreement, unless the individual withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other individual the intent to withdraw from the encounter and, notwithstanding, the other individual continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful force.


76-2-405. Force in defense of habitation.

(1) A person is justified in using force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon his habitation; however, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if:

(a) the entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner, surreptitiously, or by stealth, and he reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person, dwelling, or being in the habitation and he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence; or

(b) he reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony in the habitation and that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.

(2) The person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the entry or attempted entry is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or surreptitiously or by stealth, or for the purpose of committing a felony.


76-2-406. Force in defense of property — Affirmative defense.

(1) A person is justified in using force, other than deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent or terminate another person’s criminal interference with real property or personal property:

(a) lawfully in the person’s possession;

(b) lawfully in the possession of a member of the person’s immediate family; or

(c) belonging to a person whose property the person has a legal duty to protect.

(2) In determining reasonableness under Subsection (1), the trier of fact shall, in addition to any other factors, consider the following factors:

(a) the apparent or perceived extent of the damage to the property;

(b) property damage previously caused by the other person;

(c) threats of personal injury or damage to property that have been made previously by the other person; and

(d) any patterns of abuse or violence between the person and the other person.


76-2-407. Deadly force in defense of persons on real property.

(1) A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury against another in his defense of persons on real property other than his habitation if:

(a) he is in lawful possession of the real property;

(b) he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s trespass onto the real property;

(c) the trespass is made or attempted by use of force or in a violent and tumultuous manner; and

(i) the person reasonably believes that the trespass is attempted or made for the purpose of committing violence against any person on the real property and he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent personal violence; or

(ii) the person reasonably believes that the trespass is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a forcible felony as defined in Section 76-2-402 that poses imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury to a person on the real property and that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of that forcible felony.

(2) The person using deadly force in defense of persons on real property under Subsection (1) is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the trespass or attempted trespass is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or for the purpose of committing a forcible felony.

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