The morning of July 4th erupted in an argument between 41-year-old Jason Roche and 19-year-old Devonte Ortiz. What started as an argument over fireworks ended in gunfire and first-degree murder. Roche fatally shot Ortiz, however, Roche claimed the shooting was in self-defense. Although Roche was ultimately found guilty, the shooting raised the questions of how self-defense laws work in Texas. If you find yourself questioning about self-defense laws, the following are the top three things that you need to know.
- Self-defense laws have broadened.
In 1973, Texas enforced a “duty to retreat” law in regards to self-defense. The law stated that an individual needed to prove that they had could not walk away from an altercation. After proving that they exhausted all options before defending themselves with violence, then the individual could be freed of the charge.
The law was loosened in 1995 by adding a “castle doctrine”. The doctrine stated that an individual did not need to run away if they were defending their own property. The law again expanded in 2007 to state that individuals don’t need to retract at all. Instead, they only need to prove that they have a legal right to present during the act of defense. This policy is otherwise known as “Stand Your Ground” law.
- The defendant must prove self-defense.
Claiming self-defense does not grant you immunity. The argument of self-defense typically comes into play after the arrest, charge, an indictment of an individual. In a traditional criminal proceeding, we often see the prosecution responsible for providing evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the criminal committed a crime. When a person claims self-defense, it is up to the defendant to provide the evidence.
- Self-defense cases don’t always go to trial.
In 2015, 146 self-defense shooting across the country occurred, and only 12 of the shooters were charged. That year, Texas had the most self-defense shooting, 45, but only two of the people were actually charged. Police and district attorneys have a wide discretion of what cases they should pursue. If a district attorney finds that there is a clear path of self-defense they may be likely to drop the case.