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Do burglars need to be in my home to qualify for the castle defense?

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

For Houston residents, especially those in higher crime-rate areas, the thought of encountering a burglar attempting to break into your home is horrifying. Yet, it raises questions about your self-defense legal rights. Specifically, the uncertainty arises regarding whether you must wait for that burglar to actually enter your home or if waiting until after entry is necessary under the Castle Doctrine in Texas.

The Castle Doctrine in Texas

The Castle Doctrine (Texas Penal Code, Sections 9.31, 9.32 and 9.33) empowers residents to use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves, their families and their property from intruders or attackers. Rooted in the belief that an individual’s home is their sanctuary, this doctrine eliminates the duty to retreat within the confines of one’s home, vehicle or workplace (their castles).

Use of force in self-defense

Texas Penal Code 9.32 permits the use of deadly force against another if there is a reasonable belief in its immediate necessity to prevent the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force or to thwart imminent violent crimes. Additional conditions apply, including the legal right to be present and the absence of provocation or engagement in criminal activity.

Use of force to defend property

Texas Penal Code 9.42 extends the right to use deadly force to prevent imminent commission of violent crimes against property, such as arson, burglary, robbery or criminal mischief during the nighttime. The additional conditions align with those in self-defense.

Do burglars need to be in my home to qualify for the castle defense?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The key determinant in deciding whether shooting a burglar before entry is justified lies in the individual’s reasonable belief in the immediate necessity of deadly force to protect themselves or their property. If there is a credible threat of unlawful deadly force or imminent commission of specified violent crimes, shooting before entry may be deemed justifiable. However, the reasonableness of this belief hinges on the specific facts and circumstances.


While the Texas Castle Doctrine grants expansive rights for using force in self-defense and defense of property, the exercise of these rights depends on the reasonableness of the individual’s belief and the necessity of force. Navigating these legal nuances underscores the importance of informed decisions and legal guidance in the realm of self-defense shootings.


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