Does Texas Law Allow Me to Shoot a Trespasser?

You’re sleeping when the sounds of shattered glass and footsteps in your home wake you up. You grab your gun and investigate, only to discover someone you don’t know skulking about your property. What are you legally able to do? What if you hear the person moving to an occupied room? When you feel your property or the lives of you and your family are in peril, you should know when a responsible gun owner can legally use force or deadly force to stop criminals trespassing on their property. The firearms education professionals from LTC Austin, the experts who provide the highest-quality Austin license to carry online course, offer the following details about using firearms against trespassers in Texas.

Section 9.41 of the Texas Penal Code clarifies a person is allowed to use force, but not deadly force, to stop a trespass or property interference. Trespassing is defined as knowingly illegally entering a property or remaining on said property after being told to vacate it by someone connected to the property. Theft and “interference with property” is when someone takes another’s property with the goal of denying him or her ownership and without his or her consent. Using these terms and connecting them to the initial scenario above, anyone who fires on a trespasser is likely to face a serious felony charge.

The scenario changes if the trespasser notices the property owner and engages with him or her while armed. This changes the situation from trespass to attempted murder or aggravated robbery. This matters when separating force from deadly force. Firing upon the perpetrator in this scenario would likely be deemed a justifiable action. The point when force or deadly force is valid depends on reasonableness and immediacy of action.

If you want to know when deadly force is permitted while protecting property, the action must be deemed justifiable and considered necessary to stop any number of property crimes. Crimes that may justify the use of deadly force include arson, burglary, regular and aggravated robbery, nocturnal theft, and nocturnal criminal mischief. Hearing breaking glass and finding a busted-open door is more than sufficient to merit deadly force, as the intruder has transcended mere trespass.

In the event a criminal makes off with your goods after seeing you’re armed, juries use a three-step process to decide if opening fire is legally justified:

  1. They find you compliant with Section 9.41
  2. They must believe deadly force was necessary to stop the commission of the criminal act
  3. They must find deadly force was a final resort or taking lesser measures would have placed you at risk for undue harm or death

Remember a jury is involved after you have been charged and arrested, so be mindful of this.

It’s important for gun owners to be thoroughly familiar with the laws that apply to the use of deadly force in their jurisdictions. If you have questions about the local laws about gun use in your area, reach out to experienced professionals for guidance. When they need information on firearms safety, training, or CHL online classes, gun owners trust the expertise of the pros from LTC Austin. If you have questions about any aspect of gun ownership in Texas, give us a call today at 512-766-3039.