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Can I Defend Myself in a Texas Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

It’s the holiday season, and that means folks are out hunting for the perfect gift at the local mall and making last-minute trips to the grocery store. It can be hectic, so we wanted to take a moment and share some tips to keep you and your family safe this time of year. As responsible gun owners, we all prepare and practice for that worst-case scenario, and the foundation of responding to any threat or emergency is awareness. Unfortunately, to-do lists, errands, and life can sometimes get in the way of our situational awareness. Carrying a handgun in public is routine for many of us, but it is important to remember not to be complacent.

Apart from the drive to and from the local mall, one of the most dangerous places we can find ourselves is in the parking lot. According to the latest available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 7% of all violent crime occurs in parking lots or garages. The laws of justification and self-defense are applicable in these public spaces, but we should take the time to remind ourselves that our actions must always be reasonable and immediately necessary under the circumstances.

Why bring this up now? It’s because a lack of situational awareness when acting in self-defense or defense of others could make a huge difference if a jury is asked to decide whether or not your actions were reasonable and immediately necessary under the circumstances. What is the takeaway? Slow down, take note of your surroundings, and have a plan in case you have to act. But what if you’re walking back to your car and someone attempts to rob you, or worse yet, they exhibit a deadly weapon in an attempt to commit an aggravated robbery? In both of those cases, the law would give you a powerful legal presumption that your use of force or deadly force would be reasonable and immediately necessary.

Change the facts just slightly. What if, on the walk back to your unoccupied car, you see someone trying to burglarize it? We’ve talked about using deadly force against a burglar in the past, but there are several types of burglary: burglary of a habitation, vehicle, rail car, and even a coin-operated machine. But all burglaries are not created equally. Is it reasonable to use deadly force against someone breaking into an unoccupied car? Probably not. The Justification Statute uses the term burglary in a general sense. It’s largely accepted that deadly force is justified when there’s a burglary into a habitation or a building, but the issue is unresolved when it comes to vehicles. There is no case law on the use of deadly force against someone breaking into an unoccupied vehicle. With that said, don’t do it unless you want to become a test case.

We hope you and your family have a happy and safe holiday season. But, if you have any questions about self-defense in public, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.


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