Posted on by Texas and U.S. Law Shield Admin
Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor, Walker & Taylor Law Firm, Houston:
Today, we’re going to talk about what you can do if someone is breaking into your vehicle while you’re at your house. Well, first of all, what is this crime even called? It’s called burglary of a motor vehicle.
Now, that’s what makes this discussion interesting, because as you may already know, you can have the right to respond with deadly force when someone is committing a burglary against your property. The problem here is that the statute only reads burglary, and there are multiple different kinds of burglary in the State of Texas.
Things like burglary of the habitation, burglary of a building, burglary of a coin-operated machine, and, of course, our topic today, burglary of a motor vehicle. Because the statute doesn’t specify which kind of burglary you can respond to with deadly force, we’re kind of at a loss legally.
The problem here is that there’s no controlling case law that says that you are allowed to use deadly force against a burglar who’s breaking into your car. I know you’re probably thinking I’ve seen it on the news. I’ve heard anecdotes about people who shoot at someone who’s burglarizing their car and that shooter doesn’t get arrested. Nothing terrible happens to them; they’re allowed to go on about their lives.
I’ve heard those anecdotes, too; the problem is that because we don’t have case law that controls if you use deadly force against someone who’s burglarizing your vehicle, you could be put in the position of being the test case for whether or not that behavior is allowed under Texas law.
If someone’s breaking into your vehicle in the nighttime, the law becomes much more clear. Texas statutes say that you can, if you act reasonably, use deadly force against someone committing a theft during the nighttime.
The person who’s breaking into your vehicle is doing so presumably to commit a theft of what’s inside, so if you witness this activity in the night time, so long as you’re acting reasonably, as determined by potentially a judge or a jury, you can have the right in Texas to use deadly force against that person.
Day or night, you always have the right to use force against the person who’s committing the burglary of a motor vehicle. Use of force can look like a lot of different things, could look like anything from verbal commands to stop to actually physically going over and stopping the person with your hands, engaging them physically with your hands.
It could look like everything up into pointing a firearm at someone, so the question becomes, could you point your gun at someone and hold them at gunpoint until the police arrived because they’ve been burglarizing your motor vehicle?
Well, that would be a use of force, and a use of force can be justified in this instance. But keep in mind, your use of force has to be reasonable, it has to be immediately necessary, and it should be proportional to the amount of force that the person is perpetrating against you.
So while holding someone at gunpoint is potentially something that you’re allowed to do when they’re burglarizing your motor vehicle, keep in mind that the ultimate authority on whether or not that’s allowed is potentially a jury at trial, or a judge.
Source: U.S. Law Shield