Castle Doctrine Dies In Texas
July 27, 2009
So much for English common law and Sir Edward Coke’s dictum that a man’s home is his refuge and castle. “For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man's home is his safest refuge],” Coke wrote in 1628.
William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, said “no doors can in general be broken open to execute any civil process,” except in the case of criminal causes.
In the United States, the Castle Doctrine, arising from English common law, designates one’s place of residence as a refuge not only against violent attacks, but unwarranted trespassing by the state.
In Texas, the authorities have put an end to this idea, which ultimately found its way into Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures. Property rights are integral to the Constitution.
“Police can arrest people who don’t leave town under mandatory evacuation orders under a new state law that goes into effect in the heart of Texas’ hurricane season,” reports the Associated Press. “As it stands, officials cannot compel people to evacuate, only warn that those who stay behind won’t have any emergency services at their disposal.” The new law gives county judges and mayors the power to authorize use of “reasonable force” to remove people from the area.
The state now has the authority to smash down your door and arrest you for failure to follow orders.
The Supreme Court has ruled “the Fourth Amendment protects other interests in addition to privacy interests, such as possessory interests.” In other words, the court ruled that the state cannot evict without cause.
Jonathan Jorissen, writing for the Ave Maria Law Review in 2007, noted that “forcible removal of victims of natural disasters [in this instance, Katrina] seemingly constitutes seizures. Applying the requisite standard of reasonableness, it must be asked whether the actions were, in fact, reasonable. Given the nature of the situation, it is evident that they were not. The affected citizens were not guilty of any crime. Additionally, their property was in no way necessary for the government to carry out its duties. Instead, these hurricane victims were further victimized by their government, which removed them from their homes based on the suspicion that they might contract some disease. Without a more compelling interest, the government’s actions were unreasonable.”
As Supreme Court Justice William Patterson observed, property rights are the foundation of any social compact. “Men have a sense of property: Property is necessary to their subsistence, and correspondent to their natural wants and desires; its security was one of the objects, that induced them to unite in society.”
In Texas, the state has destroyed that compact and the very concept of natural law.