July 14, 2007

Vol. 1   No. 14

Castle Doctrine - Revisited

Recently, in different venue, I made the comment that the "Castle Doctrine" made sense, because, when the time came that I was faced with death or serious bodily injury at the hands of another, I would no longer have to waste valuable seconds trying to decide whether or not a reasonable person, in my situation, would retreat.  In retrospect, I have to rank that comment in the top 10 dumbest things I've ever said.

A closer look at Senate Bill 378, the "Castle Doctrine" has lead me to believe that what we have is actually a Solution In Search Of A Problem.

SB 378 includes several changes to the statutes dealing with justifying the use of deadly force.  The most noteworthy of the changes is the elimination of the duty to retreat, by removing the paragraph, stricken, below:


(a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another:

(1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31;

(2) if a reasonable person in the actor's situation would not have retreated;

Please note that the law did not require you to retreat, without regard to circumstance.  You were simply required to act in a reasonable manner and to do what a reasonable person would do in your situation.

So, what happens to you, on September 1, 2007,  when SB 378 becomes law?  How does your life change?  What if you have to decide whether or not to use deadly force in a situation where a reasonable person would have retreated?  Will you no longer to act in a reasonable manner?  One thing you might want to consider is the fact that the paragraph following the one stricken (above) from 9.32 remains, pretty much, intact:

(3)(2) when and to the degree he [the actor] reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:

(A) to protect himself [the actor] against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or

(B) to prevent the other's imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.

The question you have to ask yourself is, "Under what set of circumstances would you not want to use retreat as a means of defense?"

Only one answer to that question pops into my mind, "When retreat would continue to expose you to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury."  But wait, under those circumstances, a reasonable person would not have retreated.  With that in mind, the pre-SB 378 law was not as restrictive as you once thought it to be.

Where does that leave you in a, post-SB 378 world?

No one has taken away your option to retreat.  The option to retreat remains available for your consideration.  You know that a reasonable person will consider all options before using deadly force.  You are a reasonable person (let's hope).  Therefore, if the retreat option removes the risk of death or serious bodily injury, you will retreat and not use deadly force.

The bottom line is that SB 378's effect on your duty to retreat will probably result in little or no change in your life as a reasonable person.

Was it a good piece of legislation?  Sure:

  1. Since it has to be seen as pro-gun, you should put it in the "win" column, and

  2. It did make a bunch of politicians feel good about "protecting" their constituents.

With regard to the SB 378 provision for CIVIL IMMUNITY, I don't believe it's worth mentioning.  Why not?  Because, if you believe that SB 378 makes you litigation-proof, you surely, also believe in the tooth fairy. 

Life is pretty simple when you let it be.

Try not to get too caught up in the politics of a situation.  Be reasonable in what you do and let logic and common sense prevail in your decision making.  Focus on Staying Alive.

Practice, Practice, Practice


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