Recently, a driver in Florida used deadly force to protect a police officer who was being attacked by a suspect. [Click here and here and here to see our coverage of the incident.] The suspect had pulled the deputy out of the police car and had thrown him to the ground, repeatedly attacking him. The driver got out of his car and ran to the scene, warning that he’d shoot the suspect if he didn’t stop beating the deputy. When the suspect did not respond, the officer shouted, ‘Shoot him, shoot him, shoot him.’ The driver shot the suspect three times and the suspect ultimately died.
If this incident had happened in Texas, would the driver have been legal in his use of deadly force to protect the police officer?
The answer is…Probably!
Texas Penal Code 9.33 allows a third party to use deadly force in defense of another. However, the person using deadly force must reasonably believe:
- That the person being attacked would have been able to use deadly force in self-defense, and
- That his or her intervention is immediately necessary to protect the person being attacked.
This means that if you were in the same situation as the driver above, you would be allowed to use deadly force to protect the police officer if:
- The police officer would be entitled to use deadly force, and
- If your action is immediately necessary to protect him or her.
In this situation, the officer was being attacked. It is very likely that the officer feared the suspect would inflict death, or serious bodily injury (broken bones, loss of organ function, etc.). Further, given that the attack was on-going, it definitely required immediate action!
Section 9.33 doesn’t just apply to police officers; this law for defense of third parties applies to any person. Therefore, if you see a civilian being attacked, the same analysis above would apply. While it can be hard to make a snap decision whether to use your gun in the spur of the moment, it’s always good to know the law ahead of time just in case. You never know whose life it might end up saving! — by Michele Byington, Contributing Legal Editor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield Blog
Michele Byington of Walker & Byington in Houston represents clients in criminal cases ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. She has a passion for protecting people from the legal system after they have had to fight for their lives or loved ones. Byington co-authored the book Texas Gun Law: Armed And Educated, and she speaks across the nation on firearms issues and the law of self-defense.
To learn more about the state’s laws concerning the defense of others, consult Chapter 8 in Texas Gun Law: Armed And Educated.
Texas Gun Law: Armed and Educated
Paperback: 382 pages
Texas Gun Law: Armed and Educated Digital Download