When Is and Isn’t it Legal to Shoot a Creepy Clown in Texas?
In the last week, the world has gone to the clowns. At least that's what it would seem if you watch the news, read a paper, or spend any time on social media. While actual incidents and legitimate sightings of clowns have been fairly small, the stories being told and the false reports being shared make it seem much bigger. This has created a lot of fear and a lot more people making plans on how to defend themselves.
The problem is, the opinions on what's ok and what's not ok to do if you see a clown seem to be very misunderstood by a lot of internet commentators. Click-bait fake news sites have done nothing to help the situation. For instance, this story from DailyFinesser.com was being shared recently.
If you actually clicked the link, the story was about Congress authorizing the police to use deadly force, not about the average person being able to go gun down a clown. Yet, in the comments thread, it was blatantly obvious that most people only read the headline and were enthusiastically throwing their support behind it.
Not only was the headline false, the entire 'real' story on the link was also false. DailyFinesser is not a real news site. No laws were passed by congress about this. It's just click-bait to feed on your fears and get web traffic. In fact, if you look at the 'About' section on the site, it's clearly states that they aren't real news:
Dailyfinesser.com was put together by the finest finessers from around the world to finesse you and the media with outlandish articles! You can finesse your friends by sharing with them Daily Finesser. Daily Finesser is for entertainment purposes only.
Spreading something like this is only making the problems worse. Since seeing it being shared last night, DailyFinesser must have realized that they could be responsible for someone acting irrationally and going out to shoot someone. They've since changed their title to be more reflective of it being only police who are authorized. Remember though, even that story is a hoax.
So, lets just get down to the facts and stop spreading false information. Yes, there are times that it is justifiable for you to shoot a creepy clown, but it seems a lot of people really don't understand the 'stand your ground' laws and what is and isn't allowed with them.
Here's the truth. In Texas, our version of the 'castle doctrine' or the 'stand your ground law' is defined in Chapter 9 of the Texas Penal Code:Justification Excluding Criminal Responsibility. Section 9:32 lays out the basics:
(a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another:
(1) if the actor would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31; and (2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary: (A) to protect the actor against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or (B) to prevent the other's imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery. (b) The actor's belief under Subsection (a)(2) that the deadly force was immediately necessary as described by that subdivision is presumed to be reasonable if the actor: (1) knew or had reason to believe that the person against whom the deadly force was used: (A) unlawfully and with force entered, or was attempting to enter unlawfully and with force, the actor's occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment; (B) unlawfully and with force removed, or was attempting to remove unlawfully and with force, the actor from the actor's habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment; or (C) was committing or attempting to commit an offense described by Subsection (a)(2)(B); (2) did not provoke the person against whom the force was used; and (3) was not otherwise engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic at the time the force was used. (c) A person who has a right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used, who has not provoked the person against whom the deadly force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the deadly force is used is not required to retreat before using deadly force as described by this section. (d) For purposes of Subsection (a)(2), in determining whether an actor described by Subsection (c) reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary, a finder of fact may not consider whether the actor failed to retreat.
Now, to break that down. Just because someone is on your property doesn't make it ok to shoot. Just because you have a CCL doesn't make it ok to shoot. Just because you are frightened doesn't make it ok to shoot.
The law also puts a distinction between using force and using deadly force. For instance, if someone is in your yard, it is fine for you to use force to remove them. You can even show that you have a gun, as that is considered using force. Though, unless they fight back and you are now acting in self defense, it is not legal to use deadly force to remove someone from your yard. This also is the same law applied to anything on your property besides the actual home.
This video from the Personal Defense Network explains it very clearly.
The only places deadly force are allowed are inside of your home, your car, or your work. Even in these situations, you may still have to face jail time and a trial. TexasLawShield.com uses this explanation:
if you are sitting in your living room and see an individual peering in your window, you will probably not be justified under Texas law in using deadly force against the suspicious person. However, if the same fellow breaks a window and climbs through, you will be legally justified in using deadly force under Texas Penal Code §9.32.
Now, if you are being attacked, none of this matters. It's obviously always fine to act in self-defense. When it comes to the creepy clown fad, though, most of the statements made about shooting them hasn't taken that into account. You can't just shoot someone for looking scary.
You can read more about the 'Stand Your Ground' or 'Castle Doctrine' for Texas at TexasLawShield.com or Open Carry Texas. They both have really good breakdowns of what exactly Texas Penal Code Section 9:32 means in terms everyone can understand.
These creepy clowns and the rumors we keep hearing about them may be scary, but overreacting and taking someone's life is not the way to help the situation. So far, nearly all of these incidents have either been faked, or have been found out to be just someone thinking they were pulling a prank. While the prank may not be right, it's certainly not worth their death. Remember this before you say something or share something online that may encourage others to act without knowing the whole truth.