At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we represent people charged with weapons crimes all the time. Ohio is an “open carry” state, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t regulations about when you can carry and use your firearm.
These regulations are changing all the time, though, and the most recent change involves when you are allowed to use your gun in self-defense instead of retreating to avoid a confrontation.
The new Senate Bill 175 expands the “Stand Your Ground” doctrine, which already existed in Ohio law, to include any public space where you’re legally allowed to be.
If that sounds complicated to you, don’t worry. Below, criminal defense attorney Max Hiltner explains the new law and what it means for gun owners in Ohio.
“Max Hiltner is dynamite in the courtroom by connecting with the jury, recalling facts and cultivating good relationships with the opponents and presiding judge. He is professional, dedicated, honest and cares about the livelihood of his clients and their families. He excels in negotiating and hiring experts necessary for a well rounded defense. Max was one of my lawyers that stood between me and a life sentence. Without him on my team I would still be in prison. He will fight for you.” – Colleen O.
Check out the CBS 48 Hours coverage of Max Hiltner’s first experience with defending someone accused of murder here
What is a “Stand Your Ground” law?
The default in criminal law is to assume that, if you are being attacked, you have a duty to retreat to a safe location to avoid a violent confrontation.
“Stand Your Ground” laws remove that duty to retreat, allowing you to use your firearm in self-defense if you have reason to believe you are in danger.
Many states throughout the country have implemented Stand Your Ground laws throughout the last several years. In the past, Stand Your Ground only applied in Ohio if you were in one of three places:
- Your home
- Your business
- Your vehicle
However, when Governor DeWine signed Senate Bill 175 into law in January, that changed.
What is Senate Bill 175?
The new bill, which went into effect on April 6, expands the “Stand Your Ground” right to any place that you are legally allowed to be.
For example, if you are in a parking lot, and someone attacks you with a lethal weapon, you no longer have a duty to retreat and avoid a violent confrontation. You would be within your rights to use your firearm in self-defense.
This bill has important repercussions for gun owners in Ohio. In the past, if you used your gun in self-defense, you would have had to prove that you attempted to retreat before acting in self-defense.
Now, you don’t have a duty to retreat first. All you have to do is prove that you were acting in self-defense.
What does this mean for people living in Ohio?
While this seems like a big change in Ohio criminal law, there are a few things that are important to understand:
- Ohio law still requires that your use of force was reasonable and proportionate self-defense.
- You still need to show evidence in court that you were defending yourself.
- The burden of proof falls on the prosecution to show that your use of force was unreasonable.
So, for example, let’s say that you are in the parking lot of a grocery store, packing away your groceries. Someone attacks you with a knife, and you shoot them in self-defense.
In the past, you would have had to show that you retreated first, before defending yourself. Not anymore. You are within your legal rights to defend yourself with a reasonable display of force.
You would still need to show evidence in court that you were acting in self-defense. But it’s the prosecution’s responsibility to prove that your use of force was unreasonable– you don’t need to prove anything in that regard.
On the other hand, let’s say someone attacks you with a purse. You probably aren’t within your legal rights to use a firearm to defend yourself in that case. While you still don’t need to prove anything in court, the prosecution is going to have an easier time proving that you acted with unreasonable force.
For all of these reasons, retreating is still the safest and most legally-recommended method to defend yourself against an attacker. For your safety and the safety of others, you should always avoid using your firearm if at all possible.
Still, if you are forced to use your firearm in self-defense in a public place, this new law makes it easier to show that you were acting in self-defense by removing your duty to retreat.
Contact an Ohio defense attorney with experience in weapons charges and self-defense
If you are being charged with a weapons violation or even a more serious charge like murder, this new “Stand Your Ground” law might help you in your defense. But you are going to need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows the law around firearms inside and out.
Hiltner Trial Lawyers can provide you with that experience and knowledge, to advocate for you and make sure your rights are protected. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.