Castle Doctrine Law – Ohio

Ohio has long been regarded as the weathervane of the United States, at least when it comes to law, politics, and culture. Always somewhere in the middle, with its changes generally indicative of where the rest of the nation will head in time.

ohio flag

This concerns self-defense laws, too, and in that regard, Ohio has always been somewhat middling or even a bit lacking compared to other states.

Happily, and even more happily for the rest of the nation if the trend bears out, Ohio has recently seen a significant, positive revision of its self-defense laws, making them effectively castle doctrine statutes and further affirming the rights of the citizenry to defend themselves in their own homes.

This is definitely worthy of celebration, but make sure you read on to learn everything you need to know about Ohio’s revised self-defense laws, and check the section at the very end to see the exact text of the laws for yourself.

Fast Facts

  • The law in Ohio imposes no duty to retreat on citizens prior to using force in defense so long as they’re in any place they have a lawful right to be, including a dwelling, place of business or occupied vehicle.
  • Ohio law justifies the use of force in self-defense, including lethal force, or the use of similar force in defense of a third party so long as the defensive force is proportional to the unlawful use of force by an attacker.
  • Lethal force is also justified to stop the imminent or ongoing unlawful entry of a residence, dwelling or occupied vehicle.
The Castle Doctrine in Ohio

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Ohio

Ohio, perhaps not surprisingly, is one of those states that believe in copious and lengthy statutes, and that can make it hard on lay people to keep in mind the most important concepts, or even interpret them correctly.

However, the passage of recent bills on the subject of self-defense have greatly improved things for the citizenry in Ohio, even though the laws themselves, while clearer, are still quite long.

In short, citizens residing in Ohio or justified in using force in self-defense, including lethal force if required, to defend themselves or a third party against the unlawful use of force by another person wherever they happen to be so long as they are there legally.

This includes their own home or other residents, dwelling, place of business or occupied vehicle.

The use of force, including lethal force, is also justified to prevent the ongoing or imminent commission of forcible felonies.

For instance, an intruder that is attempting to forcibly enter an occupied dwelling, even if they are presenting no other outward threat, may be engaged with lethal force to prevent the imminent invasion of the occupied property by those within.

Broadly, lethal force is justified in self-defense so long as it is proportional to the threat or to prevent the imminent commission of a forceful felony, and in any case where defensive force is justified the defender has no obligation to attempt a retreat.

Restrictions

As always, there are restrictions on the use of force and self-defense and lethal force in particular.

This applies to most states but Ohio has taken special care in clarifying when the use of force in defense cannot be justified.

First and foremost, defensive force is never allowed if the defender was actually the initial antagonist or aggressor in an encounter or engaged in mutual combat.

Self-defense can never be claimed in the case a person is committing a crime or using a dwelling, other structure or vehicle to further the commission of any crime.

Lastly, one can never claim self-defense against a person who has a legal, lawful right to enter or occupy the structure that the defender is also occupying absent a court-issued protective order or order of no contact.

Similarly, any person who is seeking to remove children or grandchildren of whom they have legal custody or any other person over whom they have legal guardianship from premises may not rightly have defensive force used against them.

Assessment

Compared to years past, the legal landscape concerning self-defense in Ohio is much improved.

Citizens are justified in using force in self-defense, including lethal force, to protect themselves and others in their homes, places of business and occupied vehicles.

Now that the state imposes no obligation on defenders to retreat or to attempt retreat, hopefully this will make navigating the perilous legal aftermath somewhat less burdensome.

Relevant Ohio Castle Doctrine Statutes

Section 2901.01 – General provisions definitions.

(A) As used in the Revised Code:

(1) “Force” means any violence, compulsion, or constraint physically exerted by any means upon or against a person or thing.

(2) “Deadly force” means any force that carries a substantial risk that it will proximately result in the death of any person.

(3) “Physical harm to persons” means any injury, illness, or other physiological impairment, regardless of its gravity or duration.

(4) “Physical harm to property” means any tangible or intangible damage to property that, in any degree, results in loss to its value or interferes with its use or enjoyment. “Physical harm to property” does not include wear and tear occasioned by normal use.

(5) “Serious physical harm to persons” means any of the following:

(a) Any mental illness or condition of such gravity as would normally require hospitalization or prolonged psychiatric treatment;

(b) Any physical harm that carries a substantial risk of death;

(c) Any physical harm that involves some permanent incapacity, whether partial or total, or that involves some temporary, substantial incapacity;

(d) Any physical harm that involves some permanent disfigurement or that involves some temporary, serious disfigurement;

(e) Any physical harm that involves acute pain of such duration as to result in substantial suffering or that involves any degree of prolonged or intractable pain.

(…)

Sec. 2307.601.

(A) As used in this section:

(1) “Residence” and “vehicle” have has the same meanings meaning as in section 2901.05 of the Revised Code.

(2) “Tort action” has the same meaning as in section 2307.60 of the Revised Code.

(B) For purposes of determining the potential liability of a person in a tort action related to the person’s use of force alleged to be in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of the person’s residence, if the person lawfully is in that person’s residence, the person has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, and, if the person lawfully is an occupant of that person’s vehicle or lawfully is an occupant in a vehicle owned by an immediate family member of the person, the person has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense or defense of another if that person is in a place in which the person lawfully has a right to be.

(C) A trier of fact shall not consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not a person who used force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent injury, loss, or risk to life or safety.

Sec. 2901.05.

(A) Every person accused of an offense is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof for all elements of the offense is upon the prosecution. The burden of going forward with the evidence of an affirmative defense, and the burden of proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, for an affirmative defense other than self defense, defense of another, or defense of the accused’s residence presented as described in division (B)(1) of this section, is upon the accused.

(B)

(1) A person is allowed to act in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence. If, at the trial of a person who is accused of an offense that involved the person’s use of force against another, there is evidence presented that tends to support that the accused person used the force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person did not use the force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, as the case may be.

(2) Subject to division (B)(3) of this section, a person is presumed to have acted in self defense or defense of another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if the person against whom the defensive force is used is in the process of unlawfully and without privilege to do so entering, or has unlawfully and without privilege to do so entered, the residence or vehicle occupied by the person using the defensive force.

(3) The presumption set forth in division (B)(2) of this section does not apply if either of the following is true:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has a right to be in, or is a lawful resident of, the residence or vehicle.

(b) The person who uses the defensive force uses it while in a residence or vehicle and the person is unlawfully, and without privilege to be, in that residence or vehicle.

(4) The presumption set forth in division (B)(2) of this section is a rebuttable presumption and may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence, provided that the prosecution’s burden of proof remains proof beyond a reasonable doubt as described in divisions (A) and (B)(1) of this section.

(C) As part of its charge to the jury in a criminal case, the court shall read the definitions of “reasonable doubt” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” contained in division (D) (E) of this section.

(D) As used in this section:

(1) An “affirmative defense” is either of the following:

(a) A defense expressly designated as affirmative;

(b) A defense involving an excuse or justification peculiarly within the knowledge of the accused, on which the accused can fairly be required to adduce supporting evidence.

(2) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind that has a roof over it and that is designed to be occupied by people lodging in the building or conveyance at night, regardless of

whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent or is mobile or immobile. As used in this division, a building or conveyance includes, but is not limited to, an attached porch, and a building or conveyance with a roof over it includes, but is not limited to, a tent.

(3) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as a guest.

(4) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, that is designed to transport people or property.

(E) “Reasonable doubt” is present when the jurors, after they have carefully considered and compared all the evidence, cannot say they are firmly convinced of the truth of the charge. It is a doubt based on reason and common sense. Reasonable doubt is not mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affairs or depending on moral evidence is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt” is proof of such character that an ordinary person would be willing to rely and act upon it in the most important of the person’s own affairs.

Sec. 2901.09.

(A) As used in this section, “residence” and “vehicle” have the same meanings meaning as in section 2901.05 of the Revised Code.

(B) For purposes of any section of the Revised Code that sets forth a criminal offense, a person who lawfully is in that person’s residence has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, and a person who lawfully is an occupant of that person’s vehicle or who lawfully is an occupant in a vehicle owned by an immediate family member of the person has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense or defense of another if that person is in a place in which the person lawfully has a right to be.

(C) A trier of fact shall not consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not a person who used force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent injury, loss, or risk to life or safety.

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