Criminal Defense Lawyer
Conroe, TX and Montgomery County

Texas Castle Doctrine Faces Scrutiny After Squatter Incidents

Texas State Capitol Building - The pink marble granite Texas Capitol building is located at the end of Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, Texas.

Squatters have been in the news in recent weeks, particularly in New York, where clashes between squatters and homeowners have occurred.

In March, a property owner in Queens was arrested for changing the locks on a home she had inherited from her parents, claiming that squatters had been living there. That same month, two suspected squatters were taken into custody after police found an apartment owner beaten to death in Manhattan.

The American Apartment Owners Association defines a squatter as “...any individual who decides to inhabit a piece of land or a building in which they have no legal right to occupy.”

What does Texas law say about the use of force?

Governor Greg Abbott sought to clarify homeowners’ rights on the issue in Texas in a post on X (the social media platform that used to be Twitter).

“In Texas, anyone ‘squatting’ in your home is breaking the law,” Abbott wrote. “They are criminals violating TX laws like criminal trespass & criminal mischief (Tex. Penal Code 30.05 & 28.03). Also, the Texas Castle Doctrine empowers Texans to use force to defend themselves & their property.”

So, does that mean Texans can use force if someone is squatting on their property? In some cases, but it can get complicated.

The castle doctrine “is a qualification to the traditional requirement to retreat when it is safe to do so before resorting to deadly force in self-defense,” said Geoffrey Corn, a criminal law professor at Texas Tech University’s School of Law.

But he noted that you forfeit the right of self-defense if you initiate unlawful aggression.

“Now, if I came home unaware someone had invaded my home, confronted that individual and demanded they leave, and was then attacked with deadly force, I would then be justified in defending myself with deadly force," Corn said. “But if I knew a squatter was in my home, and then attacked that individual with deadly force, my response would be excessive and the castle doctrine would not change that.”

Criminal charges are possible

If a homeowner uses force against an intruder and it is found that the force was not necessary, the homeowner could potentially face criminal charges. Depending on the circumstances, these charges could include:

  • Assault or Aggravated Assault: If the homeowner injures the intruder without lawful justification, charges could range from simple assault to aggravated assault, especially if a weapon was used or serious injury occurred.
  • Manslaughter or Murder: If the intruder dies as a result of the force used, the homeowner could face charges of manslaughter or murder, particularly if the use of deadly force was not justifiable under the circumstances.
  • Reckless or Criminal Negligence: If the force used was excessive or recklessly implemented without regard to the safety of others, the homeowner could be charged with criminal negligence or reckless endangerment.

If you have been arrested as a result of an incident involving squatters in your home, it’s important to get legal advice as soon as possible from a criminal defense lawyer.

Contact The Webb Firm, P.C. to review your legal options

Amanda Webb of The Webb Firm, P.C. is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has been fighting for Texans accused of crimes in Montgomery County since 2009. Attorney Webb and her dedicated legal team understand the law and how the criminal justice system works in Texas. If you've been charged, our law firm knows how to create an effective defense strategy to get the best possible outcome for your case.

Learn more about how we can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Categories: Posts
Take Action Now

The Webb Firm, P.C.
207 Simonton St. #201
Conroe, TX 77301
Map and Directions

The Webb Firm, P.C.
2515 Bernardo De Galvez Ave
Galveston, TX 77550
Map and Directions

Make the Smart Decision
Free Case Consultation