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Castle Doctrine Explained

With the controversy over the Trayvon Martin case in Florida still swirling, we thought we'd ask a local law professor to explain the differences between the "Castle Doctrine" here in Texas and "Stand Your Ground" in Florida.


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The Castle Doctrine here in Texas became law in late 2007. It basically allows a person to use deadly force when confronting a threat in their home, place of work or vehicle. Geoffrey Corn is a law professor at South Texas College of Law here in Houston and says the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida takes it another step.

“It extends the Castle Doctrine rule that you don’t have to consider retreating in your home out to the street. So basically, what it does is it creates a presumption that if somebody is threatened in a public place with an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm, the jury doesn’t have to consider whether retreat was an option. They don’t have an obligation to consider running.”

Corn says “Stand Your Ground” still requires a proportional use of force and doesn’t allow an unreasonable response to what a jury might find was something less than a deadly threat. He says he understands how expanding the Castle Doctrine like Florida did might run into problems here in Texas.

“Extending it beyond the home creates uncertainty and confusion because I think it leads to the false perception that a citizen who is confronted out on the street can automatically resort to deadly force. That’s not what the rule is. It’s not what it’s intended to accomplish.”

Over the weekend, State Senator Royce West of Dallas suggested that Texas might need to reconsider its Castle Doctrine law in light of what happened in Florida.