St. Mary's Law Journal


Denise M. Drake


Recently, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 378 effectively terminating a person’s “duty to retreat” when confronted with a criminal attack of either great bodily injury or death. Complicated issues of innocence and guilt arise when one employs deadly force as a means of self-defense. Furthermore, tragic mistakes occur when people preemptively resort to deadly force before the realization of such a threat. Societal questions still exist concerning the possibility that self-defense will turn into self-justice. Critics argue the law encourages a vigilante society, substituting law enforcement help with self-justice. Conversely, supporters believe the bill serves as a deterrent from theft and violent crimes. The Castle Doctrine broadens the scope of one’s “castle” to include cars, places of business, and virtually any place a person has a legal right to be present. The law appears to be facially reasonable and creates a presumption that using deadly force against an imminent death is reasonable. The law, however, provides no guidance to prosecutors on how to successfully rebut the presumption. Furthermore, it would be easy for individuals to use deadly force and say they had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary; the only other eyewitness is dead. Whether the law serves its intended purpose of protecting an individual’s right to defend himself is playing out in Texas courts. Therefore, a greater emphasis must be placed on the facts in every case. It is imperative judges and deliberating jurors interpret the law with extreme caution to ensure defenders truly acted in self-defense.


St. Mary's University School of Law