Stand Your Ground, Self Defense

Can I claim self defense in Ohio?

  • Yes. Self defense is a legal defense to a crime in Ohio, along with defense of another and defense of your residence. You see this mostly with violent offenses like assault or murder.
  • To establish self defense, the person must show the following things:
    • That they were not at fault in creating the violent situation
    • That they had a bona fide belief that they were in imminent danger of death / great bodily harm, or bodily harm.
    • That they did not violate any duty to retreat or avoid the danger
    • The person used force that was reasonably necessary to repel the attack.
  • Note on element 1
    • You cannot initiate a fight or situation and then claim self defense.
      • It is possible to regain the ability to claim self defense if enough time has elapsed since you initiated the fight.
        • Example: You start a fight at a bar on Saturday night. You and the person then go your own ways. Then, several hours later, the person comes to your home and tries to fight you. You can likely claim self defense at this time because the initial altercation had ended.
  • Note on element 2
    • Deadly force may only be used if the person fears death or great bodily harm.
    • This element used to have a duty to retreat. However, the new Ohio Stand Your Ground Law enacted on April 6, 2021 removed that duty to retreat before you could use force for self defense. This was enacted by Ohio Senate Bill 175. Therefore, a person no longer has a duty to retreat before they are allowed to use force for self defense. IMPORTANT NOTE: You must be in a place in which you have a lawful right to be.
  • Note on element 3
    • The Stand Your Ground Law really limits this element.
  • Note on element 4
    • The use of force cannot be grossly disproportionate from the force you’re fending off. For example, if someone half your size smacks you in the face, you cannot shoot them in the chest with a gun.

How does Ohio Senate Bill 175 / Ohio Stand Your Ground Law affect self defense?

  • The new Stand Your Ground Law in Ohio went into place on April 6, 2021.
  • It removed the duty to retreat in self defense cases. Prior to this law, you could only use self defense if you could not retreat to safety (Unless you were in your own home or vehicle).
  • Now, as long as you’re in a place in which you lawfully have a right to be, you have no duty to retreat in Ohio when it comes to using force for self defense.
  • This new law applies to self defense, defense of another, and defense of your residence.

Do I have to prove that I acted in self defense?

  • No. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn’t act in self defense.
  • The offender only has to let the court and prosecutor know that they will provide evidence that tends to support the force was used in self defense.
  • This law changed on March 28, 2019 with the passing of Ohio Senate Bill 228.
    • It used to be the offender’s responsibility to prove that they acted in self defense. Now, the prosecutor must disprove every element of self defense beyond a reasonable doubt before the person can be convicted.
  • This was a huge burden shift and it now makes it easier to claim self defense in Ohio.

What is the “Castle Doctrine” in Ohio?

  • A person is presumed to have acted in self defense / defense of another if they are defending their residence from someone who doesn’t have privilege to enter or is unlawfully in the person’s residence or vehicle.
    • This presumption does not apply if the person you use defensive force on is a lawful resident or has the right to be in or on the residence or vehicle.
    • This presumption does not apply if you are in a residence or vehicle unlawfully or without privilege.
  • This presumption is rebuttable. The prosecutor has to disprove the presumption by a preponderance of the evidence.

Does the stand your ground law in Ohio apply retroactively?

  • Most courts have said it does not. Therefore, the offense would have had to occur after April 6, 2021 for the law to apply to your case.

Can I use deadly force to defend myself in Ohio?

  • You are allowed to use deadly force in self defense when you have a bona fide belief that you are in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.
  • You can also use deadly force in your own residence or vehicle and someone entered illegally or without privilege to do so.
    • The law presumes that you acted in self defense in this situation. However, the prosecutor has the ability to disprove this presumption.
  • You cannot use deadly force if you are only in fear of bodily harm.
    • For example, if someone throws a sandwich at you, you cannot shoot them. The force needs to be proportional or equal to fend off the attack.

What is imperfect self defense in Ohio?

  • People often raise self defense for murder charges. However, a lot of times the jury or court doesn’t think self defense existed. However, the jury or court does believe that the person acted under extreme provocation or circumstances so they don’t convict the person of murder. In these cases, a jury or court can find the person guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter. This is a much less serious offense than murder.

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