Bill seeking to modify Texas ‘castle doctrine’ causes stir ahead of 2021 legislative session

HOUSTON – A bill seeking to modify the so-called “castle doctrine” in Texas is getting lawmakers riled up ahead of the legislative session that begins next year.

The “castle doctrine” is outlined in the state’s penal code. It gives people the right to use deadly force to protect their “land or tangible, movable property.”

State Rep. Terry Meza, D-Irving, filed House Bill 196 in early November, which would modify part of the code to require a person to be “unable to safely retreat” before they could use deadly force to protect their habitation or property. It would also remove robbery and aggravated robbery as crimes that could be legally stopped with deadly force by property owners.

Some posts circulating on social media have insinuated that Meza’s bill seeks to end the “castle doctrine” because it requires a person to retreat from their property before using deadly force.

Vince Leibowitz, spokesman for Meza, told the Associated Press that the bill deals only with situations outside the home, leaving intact Texas law relating to situations inside someone’s own “habitation,” defined in the state penal code as “a structure or vehicle that is adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons.”

Meza took to Twitter last month to say that her bill and position have been “misrepresented.”

“It does not repeal the Castle Doctrine, and it does not restrict homeowners from using firearms in self-defense as applicable to current Texas stand your ground laws,” Meza wrote in a Nov. 19 tweet. “What my bill would do if passed, would require a homeowner to exhaust the potential of safely retreating into their habitation before using deadly force in defense of themselves or their property.”

Meza said that her bill is necessary because current law “emboldens people to take justice into their own hands.”

“I don’t believe that stealing someone’s lawn ornament should be an offense punishable by death,” Meza wrote in the tweet.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott replied to Meza’s tweet Wednesday, saying there will be no reduction to the state’s “castle doctrine.”

“We won’t force Texas homeowners to retreat,” Abbott wrote in the tweet. “Especially with the crazy ‘defund police’ ideas, homeowners need to protect themselves now more than ever.”

The Texas Legislature, which convenes every two years, begins a new session Jan. 12.


This story has been updated to clarify that the changes proposed in HB 196 are not linked to home ownership.