The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the people the right to keep and bear arms. However, gun laws make things much more complicated than that. Federal and state laws regulate and govern the right to possess and use firearms.
Some of the laws regarding using guns for self-defense in your home have changed in Ohio. It is important to understand gun laws in Ohio, especially related to your right to use force to defend yourself in your home.
Self-Defense Laws Have Changed in Ohio
In most cases, you have the right to take lethal force to defend yourself in your home from an intruder. Under previous Ohio state laws, you could claim self-defense if you shot an intruder in your home.
However, you and your criminal defense lawyer had to claim self-defense and prove all of the legal elements required for a self-defense claim. In other words, you had to prove that you shot the intruder because you feared for your life or the lives of your family members.
In 2018, the laws regarding self-defense changed. Legislators overrode the Governor’s veto of House Bill 228. The legislation changed several of the gun laws in Ohio, including self-defense.
The new law shifts the burden of proof to the prosecution. The prosecution now has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not use force against another person in self-defense or defense of your home. In other words, your burden to prove that you acted in self-defense or defense of your home is less than it was before the enactment of the new law.
Does Ohio Use the Castle Doctrine?
Yes, Ohio is one of nearly two dozen states that recognize the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine presumes that your home is your “castle.” Therefore, you have the legal right to defend your home and your family from someone who breaks into your home while you are inside your home.
There are several legal elements that you must prove to use the Castle Doctrine as a defense in a criminal case:
- You were in your home at the time that the person attempted to break into your home.
- You had a reasonable belief that there was an immediate threat of serious injury or death to you or your family members.
- You were not at fault for creating the situation or escalating the situation.
Just because you were in your home and shot an intruder does not mean that you do not need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you prove you are innocent of the criminal charges brought by the state. Prosecutors often argue that there was no immediate threat of harm or death or that you escalated the matter to the point of using lethal force.
Can I Use Deadly Force to Protect My Property?
You can use deadly force to protect yourself and your family members, but the rules about protecting property are different. Under Ohio law, you cannot use deadly force to protect property against theft.
For example, you cannot shoot a person who is in your yard stealing your car when that person does not have a weapon and is not posing an immediate threat of injury or death to you or your family members.
However, if someone uses a deadly weapon to commit aggravated robbery or armed robbery, that might be a different situation. You might have the right to use deadly force in those situations if you feel that your life is being threatened. There could be a question of whether you violated any of the duty to retreat requirements in those situations.
Currently, in Ohio, you have a duty to retreat before acting in self-defense if you are in a public setting. The requirement could change if legislators pass the proposed Stand Your Ground law.
Currently, you cannot use self-defense if you:
- See people who are leaving your home
- Threatened the person first
- Are arresting arrest
- You see someone trying to break into your home, but you are not in your home
- You are the one who is in the process of committing a violent felony
The right to defend yourself and your family from someone breaking into your home is permitted by law. However, proving that you acted in self-defense could be tricky, even with the new law shifting the burden of proof to the state.
If you shoot an intruder in your home, contact the police immediately to report the shooting. Then call a criminal defense lawyer for help. Tell police officers that you do not want to answer questions or make a statement until your attorney is present.