You Be the Judge: Does ‘LTC’ Mean License to Chase?

Emily Taylor, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington and a Texas Law Shield attorney

On the Texas Law Shield Facebook page April 24, the group’s lawyers shared a story about an individual with a License to Carry who chased after a group of thieves that had just taken large quantities of merchandise from a store in The Woodlands. The individual ended up opening fire on the thieves’ stolen van in the mall parking lot. Click here to see the KPRC-TV report on the events. By Gordon Cooper, Attorney, Walker & Byington With these facts, Texas Law Shield asked its members: “Do you think giving chase and engaging the fleeing thieves was a good idea by the LTC holder, or a misfire?” More than 350 comments later, gun owners offered a passionate range of opinions, some of which are excerpted below: Brian V, with 113 Likes from other commenters, said: “It’s just stuff from the mall…is that store going to pay all his legal bills now? Shoulda stayed out of it.” Robert P, with 73 Likes, said: “Deadly Conduct under Texas Penal Code 22.05. In fact, shooting at the vehicle was a felony. The shooter isn’t a cop. The shooter wasn’t protecting his life or anyone else’s life. Using deadly force to stop a misdemeanor shoplifting crime isn’t justified even if a cop had been doing the shooting. If the theft was a felony, citizens still can’t shoot. This shooter needs an attorney and better pray the local DA is understanding because the shooter is in more trouble than the shoplifters.” Ron I, with 2 Likes, said: “I would have made chase but not pulled my handgun unless they fired at me first. The reason to make chase is to get a license number or other identifiers for law enforcement.”

Emily Taylor, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington and a Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney, discusses the legalities of giving chase and firing on fleeing thieves.
Emily Taylor, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington and a Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney, discusses the legalities of giving chase and firing on fleeing thieves.

Surveying the comments, Walker & Byington lawyers saw that almost everyone understood the legal basis for giving chase and shooting was shaky, at best. Emily Taylor, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington and a Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney, offered further details on how the law plays out in a situation like this: Whenever someone uses deadly force, for it to be legal, there has to be some manner of justification. Usually, this comes in the form of a reasonable belief there is an immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury. In this instance, however, there was no evidence in the article to indicate the man was in fear for his own life! This means we will have to look elsewhere for justification; the only justification that is remotely close to fitting in these circumstances involves the defense of property of a third person. So, for this man’s actions to be legal, it boils down to whether or not he was legal in defending the property of another. In order to use deadly force to protect someone else’s property, there are some specific elements that have to be met, and these elements change depending on the property crime. The first order of business, then, is to figure out what kind of property crime was occurring.

What crime exactly were the bad guys committing? Theft vs. Robbery vs. Burglary

Texas law distinguishes between theft, robbery, and burglary, which can sometimes be tricky to differentiate in application, since they can all look the same! Here are the main differences between these property crimes:

  • Theft is the unlawful stealing or taking without consent of the owner some property with the intent to deprive the owner of that property. Texas Penal Code 31.03.
  • Robbery is theft plus the intentional, knowing, or reckless causing of bodily injury to another or the intentional or knowing threatening of placing another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death. Texas Penal Code 29.02.
  • Burglary is the unlawful entering of a habitation or building not open to the public with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault inside. Texas Penal Code 30.02.

To our knowledge, the bad guys could not have been causing bodily injury or threatening another with imminent bodily injury, as they simply took merchandise and escaped. This means the crime wasn’t robbery. It also wasn’t burglary because the thieves entered a store which was open to the public and wasn’t a habitation.

So what crime were the bad guys committing? Most likely theft, because they were unlawfully taking away property of the store, and it’s probably safe to guess that they intended to deprive the store owner of that property permanently! Now let’s examine when a person is allowed to defend property, specifically, defending against a theft.

When can a person use deadly force to defend another person’s property?

In order to protect another person’s property, the same circumstances for defending one’s own property with deadly force must be present. When it comes to defending one’s own property with deadly force against a thief, a person must either be preventing the imminent commission of a theft in the nighttime or preventing the bad guy from fleeing immediately after committing the theft in the nighttime. Texas Penal Code 9.42. To make matters more complicated, when defending a third person’s property, the property defender must have a reasonable belief that the third person requested protection of the property. Texas Penal Code 9.43.

So were these elements met in this case?

The very first requirement is that the man must be defending against a theft during the nighttime. Under Texas law, nighttime is 30 minutes after sunset, and 30 minutes before sunrise. This justification is not applicable here as the theft occurred during the day. This means that he has already lost his justification right out of the gate. While he could have used force to defend against the daytime thieves, his use of deadly force was not legally justified.

Click here to read the rest of the discussion on the Texas Law Shield blog.

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Comments (37)

  1. That is not only stupid, it is insane! We, responsible gun carriers, know the laws of deadly force. If no one was in risk of serious bodily injury or death, there is no reason at all of pulling your weapon. “Self control” is essential when you carry a weapon.

  2. I’m gonna get everyone’s hairdo in an uproar by playing the Devil’s advocate. Before I do… let me just say that I own lots of guns and don’t like Hillary.

    Anyway… somewhere between the right to shoot a perpetrator (for stealing) and these punitive laws that make the shooter regret ever owning a gun… lies justice. Meaning, I don’t want a society that permits every gun owner to make life or death decision just cause they caught a criminal. That invites a vigilante (or a half-wit with a bad attitude) to express their opinions through their firearm.

    Heck, we can all agree a jury makes a more sober decision (on average) than an individual bent on revenge. So, in the heat of a property crime (not a robbery or assault) I can see some good coming from laws that make it real clear that citizens can’t use their firearm to bring about ‘justice’.

    As for the shooter in this story, it would appear he was clearly exercising revenge for a wrong that occurred (and I can sure as heck relate to his anger!). But the issue comes down to whether we want the courts to determine ‘revenge’ or to any guy with a firearm. Frankly, I’ll choose the courts. (OK… so ahh… be gentle guys… I bruise easy). 🙂

    1. You said it quite well. I have a hard time visualizing a piece of property as being worth the taking of a life. Sure I would be PO’d but I also have to live with myself. Threatening lives of me, my family, my neighbor, etc, is a totally different thing. Even then, I believe in two things. First that if it’s possible to negotiate a surrender, it’s the preferable course. Second, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution which I consider the law of the land. That this is a land of laws, not land of chaos (yet).

      The time may come when things are forced to change rather than allow the gangs to control the streets and force us to live in fear, but it’s not quite here yet.

    2. Why do you insist the shooter was acting out of “revenge”? According to the story, the shooter wasn’t a store owner, he was a “passer by” at best, so I don’t see how “revenge” works into it.

      Also, a LOT of people have argued that the shooter should NOT be shooting at the tires. I too would NOT recommend such action, however, I have seen police take that action, and IF the situation warrants it, then perhaps he should have. I don’t know, because there isn’t enough of the story for me to make a call on that. I CAN tell you, that if I was afraid the thieves were going to use the vehicle as a weapon, I too would do everything in my power to stop them. (It would be at that time I would be hoping I was carrying my .44mag with defender rounds) so I could shoot the engine block, and kill the car.

      The “law” that backs up these actions is from “Constitutional Lawyers” who state “It’s very simple, a person carrying a weapon, has the same rights and duty as a police officer.” So if a police officer can shoot out tires to a vehicle, so can a citizen with a CCL.

  3. This is the EXACT scenario that all those anti CCW folks like to reference in defense of their opinions on why every day citizens not actively engaged in Professional Law Enforcement SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO CARRY CONCEALED FIREARMS. Somebody needs to find this Mental Midget and thank him for proving the Anti’s point for them…I hope He goes to Jail for while just to sink the point home.

  4. It is illegal to fire at a criminals who are leaving as they are no longer a bonafide threat.
    Of course the police 9 times out of 10 will not retrieve your property so it is still your loss and then they will justify that with “You should have had insurance.”
    Apparently the police are the only ones with a license to kill.
    In states with Castle Laws as long as they are on your property. . . .

    1. “Apparently the police are the only ones with a license to kill.”…..You’re just now figuring this out? What planet have you been living on for the last 150 years?

  5. This is what happens when stupid people are allowed to carry concealed weapons. Unfortunately an IQ test is not part of a CCW application.

    Maybe it’s time it was?

    1. There’s a reason we no longer require literacy tests for voting, and why pro-rights groups generally oppose training requirements to purchase or carry a firearm.

      They’re great ideas in theory, but too ripe for government abuse in practice.

  6. It is easy to armchair quarterback such cases. Note that law enforcement is, in most jurisdictions, prohibited from shooting at a fleeing perp. There are very specific rules about when you can shoot, and they always involve PROTECTING lives not property. This even applies to federal places where they have those signs posted. You know, the signs that say “Deadly Force Is Authorized”. As one who enforced that sign for 21+ years, I can attest to the fact that you first try to enforce WITHOUT deadly force. If that is not possible, only then do you use deadly force. Naturally, that change can happen very quickly.

    Businesses and citizens generally have insurance to cover losses. They also have tax write-offs. Business takes into account losses by theft as well as accident. Homeowners/Renters insurance generally covers thefts, although you must make sure that your policy covers your possessions. EX: I needed added insurance to cover jewelry, firearms, and artworks.

    What many forget to consider is the emotional side of the issue, which you can’t understand until after the fact. First, no mater the justification, you will have to live with having wounded, maimed, or killed a human being (even if they act like animals). Not just you, but your family will be impacted. The financial costs alone can destroy a family. You may have to pack up and relocate because the community attitude is not what you expected. These are things you may have to live with for the rest of your life. Just like some veterans have to deal with PTSD and others who went through the same conditions don’t.

    There is a lot more to taking a life than just pulling the trigger.

  7. Of course he shouldn’t have even drawn his weapon. But now that it happened, give him a very minor slap on the wrist and keep it quiet that he received ANY punishment. Back in 1967 some guys broke into my Corvette. I went out with a rifle, they split in different directions (without their car). I shot a couple of warning shots out over the ocean (illegal now and most likely illegal then). One of the guys was so scared, he told his dad “They were shooting at us”. His dad took him to the police so they caught all three.
    If they come down hard on this guy, the thieves will have the merchandise AND the last laugh. If they don’t hear anymore about it, they might realize crime could get them shot.

  8. Golf claps for everyone that figured out what was legal and what wasn’t. What about what was right and what was wrong?

    There is an historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
    Criminals did their thing and the police were nowhere to be found and, of all the people present at the time, only ONE man did anything at all while everyone else sat back and waited for a nanny to deal with it. Now they’re all going to applaud when the only guy with a pair of balls gets punished and complain to their keepers about the crime rate…
    Where’z muh POlice at!?

    1. Am I to understand that force (deadly) can’t be used during daylight hours in Texas to prevent the commission of a crime, on or in my property??? How about I hold him at bay with my gun til the sun sets, then shoot the SOB….. Sounds like a bunch of escaped Californians wrote the Texas laws

    2. To prevent the imminent commission of a THEFT, or fleeing immediately after committing a THEFT. Please READ the definition of “theft” in the article, and then read the next-to-last paragraph again.

    3. Ahhh, John, sounds like you left-out the condition of NIGHTTIME. So, yeah… USAFoldSarge’s understanding seems correct to me. Ya can’t use deadly force to prevent THEFT on your property during daylight hours. Robbery, however, which is ‘theft’ with the risk of death or bodily harm, ya can use force: day or night.

    4. The problem with debating right and wrong in these cases is that the ultimate decider will be twelve strangers who only know you based on what two opposing lawyers have told them about you.

      If you’re willing to risk a decade or more in prison to stop a shoplifter, that’s your choice. Personally, I’m not interested in being the test case to see if jury nullification would carry the day in that situation.

    5. Exactly! Why are citizens considered incompetent, and police the only rational solution to problems like these? I appreciate the work police do but to suggest that a grown adult must sit back and watch when a crime is being committed is ridiculous. Police miss a lot of shots, and don’t have guaranteed response times, thats a fact. So this man is supposed to rack his brain and see if its approximately 30 till sunset, while criminals are obvious unencumbered with these types of decisions. I cant understand why this narrative is constantly perpetuated as the acceptable.

      The problem seems to be that pro gun rights lawyers aren’t putting enough pressure on their counterparts to use common sense. Why does the defender of any life or property have to second guess every decision he has to make?

  9. While admirable having the DESIRE to squash the dirtbags – acting on that DESIRE was foolhardy. Most states repealed “fleeing felon” laws many years ago. The contingent liabilities embraced by the CCW citizen are mind boggling . Pursue IF done safely and call the PD in to do the NASTY on the Cretans ????‼️

  10. Maybe, just maybe, after chasing the felons (?), they attempted to run him down. The first part is legal as a citizens arrest, chasing. The second part is legal because he would have been in fear of being run over. Still, not enough facts to decide here.

  11. Here in Commiefornia we have prop 47. All burlaries are now misdemenors with probation. Same with non-violent robberies. Most propery crimes are now misdemenors. Guess what? Property crimes are way up here.
    Notice to criminals across the USA: In commiefornia we will protect you. Use a gun to protect property here and you will be the one sent to prison.

  12. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    The shooter had good intentions, but is now faced with legal action against him and potentially, a lawsuit from the thieves as they continue their attempted redistribution of wealth efforts towards their own pockets.

    When the thieves fled, the danger was removed. No reason to draw a weapon.

    At that point, you are simply a witness, so be the best witness you can be and provide as much info as possible.

    The right to carry is so important to the health of American liberty. It is extremely important that those who carry do not screw up because it puts them them on the wrong side of common law and it provides a narrative to the anti liberty, anti firearms, anti American principles collectivists.

  13. bad choice. Unless the van was endangering people- NO reason to shoot a fleeing ‘felon’- plus no way to know if it was a FELONY theft.- plus he had no idea if it was a theft or robbery…he just saw them running with he mdse. he needs legal $$$ now.

  14. I have to agree, so far, with everyone who have posted here. To kill,(or attempt to kill) over property is not a sound defense. Now saying that as relates to Texas law of being able to use lethal force to defend property probably dates back to cattle rustling and horse theft days.
    I personally would never KILL for just property, but someone stealing something from…let’s say my barn…and I go out to check why my chickens or goats are in distress, at night, and find a stranger there in a low light scenario, possibly with a weapon and no where for ME to retreat to, they just may get some lead. One exception to the theft position of property is my Harley. My bike is my family member, worth protect. Like it or not!! Some laws need to be modified, some need to be ignored. We can pick and choose which we personally will abide by, and the results of those choices. Some of which will make us a criminal, and some which will take another humans life (or ours).

  15. You use your weapon to protect life. Guys stealing merchandise are not an imminent threat to life and limb. Period. We are not carrying to be the police to catch shoplifters, we carry to protect our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

  16. It’s standard in law enforcement that you don’t shoot at a fleeing vehicle. Why? Because taking a life over property is not worth it. Someone steals my TV and I can either buy a replacement or my insurance will. If there is a threat to life, it a whole different story. You can’t replace a life.

    1. We should just put out welcome mats for robbers
      saying if you can take any of my stuff and run
      OK you got away with it.
      I am afraid the real world will visit some of you all
      some day before you have nothing left to take.

    2. That’s a pretty oversimplified way of looking at the situation, abelhorn. In this case, and I think what DaveW meant, is that discretion is the better part of valor.

      I hope you think a jail cell is worth shooting someone who is halfway down the road in the back, over your TV.

  17. I am sure that the attorney is correctly stating what the law in Texas is and I agree that this citizen most likely had no legitimate reason to use deadly force in this situation. But what bothers me is the actual Texas code that says that you can only protect property from Theft after NIGHTTIME! What the heck should the time of day (or night ) have to do with anything? Stealing is stealing no matter what time of day the stealing of someone else’s property occurs! I suspect that this provision of the law is from frontier days or something like that.

    1. The largest gang in the U.S. has said so!

      The BAR Association is the largest gang of criminals in the WORLD!

      This is who is re-writing the Constitutions and Statutes of the sundry States to make everyone kowtow like the English do to the Queen. They are serfs, owing all that they are and that they have to the Queen.

      The BAR operates in direct violation of the 2nd Article of The Constitution and sit in all three Branches of Government “interpreting” the “laws” as they see fit to the detriment of the citizens.

      I chose to serve in the military and the cops chose to serve in the Police/Sheriff’s agencies. Neither qualifies anyone for special dispensation toward preferential treatment by being in a dangerous job.

      Legitimately, you can’t ‘join’ any military/police force UNTIL / UNLESS you are legally an adult and totally responsible for your own actions. Only a ‘judge’ can entice you to join in lieu of jail/prison time for your wrongdoings.

    2. You can still use your gun on them if you fear for your life, but not just to stop them from stealing. The difference is that at night you might not know whether your life is in danger or not, so they have broadened the acceptable use of force.

  18. Anyone that would of purpose pursue a band of robbers who no longer constituted a threat is an idiot. A CCW or LTC does not make a person a law enforcement officer. He should have reported this to the LEOs, giving vital information, ie; type & color of vehicle, tag number, number of suspects and so forth. Then to get into a firefight in the parking lot, goes from idiot to moron. If he wasn’t concerned about his life, then what about bystanders?

  19. A country where the robber is protected and
    the property owner is prosecuted

    1. Real Bad News, ablehorn. The country you live in (the U.S.) is already ran by THE BAD GUYS. Just look to Washington D.C. Regardless, CCW ,LCT carriers are not LEOs and there is yet ‘Rule of Law’, even if the ‘bad guys’ do not follow it. There are certain times that it is permissible to take the law into your own hand. Stopping a theft where your or other lives are not threatened, is not one of those times. Drawing, brandishing your weapon when no one is being harmed or in imminent danger or being harmed and especially discharging it at a fleeing person or group or persons will just serve as more ‘anti-gun fodder’ for GUN GRABBERS and likely see you going to jail instead of the thief.

    2. Per the article, in this case the crime was theft and not robbery. Robbery involves taking properly by using force or the threat of force, in which case self-defense is more readily justified because a person is at risk and not just property. Additionally, it was a bystander (not the property owner) who gave chase and eventually fired on the thieves’ vehicle.

      From my own perspective I wouldn’t have pursued even if it was robbery and not theft. After the criminals fled there would no longer be an imminent threat to myself or others, and it’s simply not worth putting my life and/or freedom on the line for property that can be replaced – especially if it’s not my property to begin with.

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