A viral social media post is suggesting that it may be okay to shoot someone to defend a statue. An Independent Program Attorney at U.S. & Texas LawShield® begs to differ. Texas LawShield recently became aware of a viral Facebook post telling people they can shoot someone vandalizing a statue.
Based on recent events, we understand the importance of knowing whether or not this is valid legal information. It appears this viral story started as a blog post that reported on one individual’s opinion on the use of force and/or deadly force to protect public property. The position advocated by the Facebook post cited in the blog is not a very good idea.
The defense of property justifications (TPC 9.41, 9.42, and 9.43) are all based upon the finding that the person’s conduct was based upon a “reasonable belief” that the use of force is “immediately necessary” to prevent the harm to property. With regard to deadly force, it can only be used if the person “reasonably believes that … the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by ANY other means.” This presents a lot of room for a jury to find that someone was unreasonable in using force or deadly force to defend against an act of criminal mischief. Further, deadly force can never be used in response to the crime of criminal mischief in the daytime.
Many people who have commented on this post have posed a “…but what if they come at me…” scenario.
It is true that the circumstances that allow for the use of force and/or deadly force can change instantly. If a person is simply trying to stop a vandal by shouting at him or calling the police, and as a result the vandal attempts to attack the person, then the person being attacked would be justified in using force and may even escalate to deadly force to defend themselves if they have a reasonable belief that they are going to be murdered.
However, if a person were to physically intervene to stop a vandal (any offensive, unwanted, or injurious touching is an assault) and then were to be physically assaulted themselves, the issue that a jury would have to decide is whether or not the person had disqualified themselves from claiming self-defense because of their initial “assault” on the vandal.
Needless to say, this is a very complex issue and should not have been addressed by anyone in such a cavalier manner. It is unfortunate that civilized behavior in our society has devolved to such a state that it is even necessary to consider these issues.