When a couple decides to tie the knot, they do so with the intent to be bound to one another for life within the sacred bonds of holy matrimony. But when one or both of the parties are cat-lovers, they enter marriage with a caveat known to every feline-keeper: the cat comes first.
Don’t believe this unwritten rule? Well readers, Audrey Deen Miller is here to prove you wrong. The 42-year-old Texas woman has been accused of shooting her husband in the stomach after he allegedly threatened to shoot her cat. Apparently, the couple had gotten an argument on their way home. But things turned serious when Miller’s husband announced his plans to fire a pellet gun at her cat. So what would any respectable cat owner do in such a situation? If you said pull out a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun and shoot the potential cat-attacker in the belly, then congratulations, you know how Miller thinks. Also, you’re probably mental.
While no decent human being would ever want to see any harm befall on their beloved pet, blasting a dude is a little extreme, especially if you’re married to the other party. In Miller’s case, she was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Her husband was rushed to the hospital and later released. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Miller’s cat is fine.
This story is interesting on a number of levels. The first being that Miller somehow lucked out in an odd way because so far she has only been charged with aggravated assault after shooting a person. With a gun. In Texas.
But don’t misunderstand, aggravated assault is still a serious felony and carries some major prison time in the state. However, the penalty for attempted murder is much worst and could’ve fit the facts in Miller’s case just as well. While there’s no word yet on what prosecutors plan to do, don’t be surprised if they push for this charge later.
The other interesting legal question in this story revolves around the issue of self-defense, or more specifically, defense of others.
It’s a long standing tenet in criminal law that killing another person is arguably the most heinous crime possible. It’s for this reason that exceptions to murder are extremely limited. One of those exceptions is protecting another person or yourself from being killed or severely injured. In such situations, the killing is considered justified.
However, the keyword in this legal exception is “person.” Animals, no matter how real or severe the threat or harm to them, are not covered under the laws of self-defense. Furthermore, in Miller’s case, even if the exception did apply to animals, it still likely wouldn’t protect her against conviction. That’s because the third party victim must actually be under attack at the time the protector acts. A threat of future harm isn’t a sufficient basis to off an attacker. As any law professor would say, the harm must be imminent.
But, this doesn’t mean that a person can’t act to protect a cat. Animals are actually considered a type of personal property (or chattel). As such, you’re allowed to use reasonable force to protect your belongings from theft or damage. This legal exception applies in Texas and the majority of states.
However, you’re never allowed to use deadly force to protect your property, regardless of the property’s emotional and/or monetary value. Also, like with the defense of others exception, the harm to a person’s property must be imminent for the exception to apply. And if you remember, Miller’s husband only threatened to shoot her cat, but as far as all reports say so far, the cat wasn’t with the couple at the time of the alleged threat. This means that even if Miller could somehow convince a jury that she was justified in using deadly force to protect her cat, the exception still wouldn’t apply because the feline wasn’t under any imminent threat of harm at the time.
So, in closing, there are two lessons that you should take away from this post. The first is that our justice system has created legal arguments for nearly every situation imaginable. The second is don’t mess with cat owners.
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