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Booby-Traps on Property  (Thursday, July 21, 2011)


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Trespassers Will Be Shot, Survivors Shot Twice

What would you think if I told you that it is legal under Texas law to set up booby-traps to protect your property?


That’s right, under Texas Law you have the right to use a booby-trap, the law says “device” but I prefer to call it a booby-trap, to protect your property.


Now the first questions in your mind are probably “What exactly do you mean by Booby-Trap?” and “What kind of property are we talking about?”


What is a Booby-Trap?

One of the most memorable cases I read in law school was about a

homeowner, who had a problem with trespassers, who set up a "spring-gun" that would automatically fire a shotgun at knee height when a trespasser opened the door.


Well he got in trouble for that, but that’s not the kind of booby-trap we’re talking about.  When I say booby trap, you probably imagine some sort of Wil E. Coyote style contraption.  What we're talking about today though isn't some sort deep pit filled with alligators, or even a bear trap hidden under a dinner plate.


Specifically, your booby-trap can't be "designed to cause, or known by [you] to create a substantial risk of causing, death or serious bodily injury."  Also, use of the booby-trap must be reasonable under all of the circumstances as you believe them to be when installing it. 


I’m not going to give you opinions on what kinds of booby-traps would qualify here, but I imagine that it is something that would be an annoying deterrent rather than an actual “trap.”  (Do NOT trap people!)


Use of Force

If your booby-trap constitutes the use of force on anyone, then you must take great care and consideration before deploying it because use of force requires that you reasonably believe that force is immediately necessary.  If your booby-trap uses force on someone that it wasn’t reasonable to use force on (child wanders on your property) then you will probably have your own crime to answer for.


What Kind of Property?

Under Texas Law, you can use your booby-trap (“device”) to protect both land and tangible, movable property.  However, you can’t set up booby-traps to protect just any property, you must be in lawful possession of it. 


Additionally, Texas Law allows you to protect the property of a third person if you reasonably believe that they requested your protection; you have a legal duty to protect it, or if the third party is your spouse, parent, child, resides with you, or is under your care.


Source: Tex. Pen. Code §§ 9.41, 9.43, & 9.44


--Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,


Matthew Harris Law, PLLC  - Civil Litigation Division & Criminal Defense Division

1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309

Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479


1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas 79401

Tel: (806) 702-4852  |  Fax: (800) 985-9479



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