Castle Doctrine and Immunity from Civil Liability

An interesting question was asked of me today. Doesn't the Castle Doctrine give us immunity from a civil lawsuit if we were justified in using deadly force? The answer is no and yes. Let me explain.

First, Castle Doctrine does not appear anywhere in the Texas Penal Code; rather, it is what attorneys call Texas Penal Code Chapter 9. Remember, the defense of "Castle Doctrine" does not apply until you have been indicted by a grand jury for the crime (TPC 9.02). Next, the terms of self-defense are found in TPC 9.31. However, many people miss TPC 9.06 which states, "The fact that conduct is justified under this chapter does not abolish or impair any remedy for the conduct that is available in a civil suit." This means you CAN still be sued in civil court.

So, where does the immunity idea come from. That's the second part of the answer, the "yes" if you will. Texas Civil Practices and Remedy Code section 83.001 states "A defendant who uses force or deadly force that is justified under Chapter 9, Penal Code, is immune from civil liability for personal injury or death that results from the defendant's use of force or deadly force, as applicable." This means that you can still be sued, you will just avoid monetary damages for the events. This does not protect you if there is property damage involved or a third party is injured.

As always, just because the Texas Penal Code has the "Castle Doctrine" in place, always think to yourself if it is worth going through all the legal headaches. Deadly force should be the last thing you do and remember that the law says you can only use enough force to stop the threat. Killing another person is still a crime and you can be arrested for the same.


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