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Criminal Defense

What counts as self-defense in Ohio?

By November 10, 2021No Comments

Crimes that involve using physical force or violence against someone, like murder, manslaughter, or assault, can carry serious weight in Ohio.

Luckily, like most states, Ohio makes significant allowances for the use of force when you’re acting in self-defense. But self-defense laws vary by state, and they can often be pretty confusing.

So what exactly counts as self-defense in Ohio? And when are you allowed to use force in self-defense?

Ohio defense attorney Max Hiltner explains below.

Defining “self-defense” in Ohio

The term “self-defense” is defined in Ohio law in Ohio Revised Code Title XXIX § 2901.05. This statute explains that you are allowed to use force in any of the following circumstances:

  • In defense of yourself
  • In defense of another person
  • In defense of your residence

If you are charged with a crime involving the use of force, it’s not your responsibility to prove that you acted in self-defense.

According to the law, if there is any evidence that “tends to support” that you acted in self-defense, then the prosecution has the burden of proving you did not act in self-defense.

In addition, you’re only allowed to use force that is proportionate to the harm that you are reasonably afraid of. So if someone attacks you with an open hand, and you defend yourself with a deadly weapon, the prosecutor might argue that your use of self-defense was not proportionate to the danger that you were in.

Presumption of self-defense

In Ohio, there is a presumption of self-defense when you are defending yourself against an intruder in your own home.

If the person you used force against entered your residence or vehicle “unlawfully and without privilege to do so,” then the court will assume you were acting in self-defense regardless of the circumstances.

This presumption of self-defense does not apply in either of the following circumstances:

  • The person you used force against has a right to be in your residence or vehicle (for example, you invited them in)
  • You are in a residence or vehicle that you’re not legally allowed to be (for example, if there is a protective order preventing you from entering)

The presumption of self-defense in your own home is related to the “Stand Your Ground” doctrine.

The “Stand Your Ground” doctrine

In most cases, you have a “duty to retreat” when being attacked in order to avoid a violent confrontation. If you’ve attempted to retreat and you’re still in danger, or if it’s not possible for you to retreat, only then are you allowed to use force to defend yourself.

However, Ohio law subscribes to the “Stand Your Ground” doctrine, which means you do not have a duty to retreat under certain circumstances.

According to Ohio Revised Code Title XXIX § 2901.09, “a person who lawfully is in that person’s residence has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense.”

Previously, this law only applied if you were in one of three places:

  • your residence
  • your business
  • your vehicle

However, a Senate Bill passed earlier this year expanded the Stand Your Ground doctrine to include any public place that you’re legally allowed to be.

So if someone attacks you in a parking lot, you have no duty to retreat before using force to defend yourself. It’s important to remember, however, that your use of force still needs to be proportionate to the amount of danger you’re in.

Contact an Ohio criminal defense attorney today

If you used force to defend yourself, and now you’re facing criminal charges for it, the most important thing you can do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we have successfully defended many clients by presenting evidence that they were acting in self-defense. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and talk about your case.