Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a “stand your ground” bill into law on January 4, 2021. The law expands legal protections for Ohioans forced to defend themselves or their families. Under previous law, people were justified in hurting or killing someone in self-defense only after they first attempted to run away, unless they were using force in defense of their residence or their vehicle. The new law eliminates the “duty to retreat” as long as an individual is in a place where they lawfully have a right to be. However, it does not change the standard for use of lethal force.
What Is Allowed—and What Is Not—Under New Stand Your Ground Law
Under Ohio law, as it exists until April 4, 2021, people are justified in using deadly force in self-defense only under the following situations:
- They were not at fault in creating the situation;
- There was a threat of imminent or immediate death;
- There was a not a reasonable means of retreat; and
- The use of such force was reasonable.
In Ohio, there is a legal presumption that a person acts in self-defense when he or she uses force against anyone who unlawfully enters their residence or their vehicle. The new law eliminates the “duty to retreat” as long as an individual is in a place where they lawfully have a right to be.
Ohio’s stand your ground law takes effect on April 4, 2021. When it does, the use of deadly force in self-defense by Ohioans will be justified under the following circumstances:
- The person is not the aggressor
- The person believes they are in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm
- The person is in a place where they have a legal right to be (i.e., they are not trespassing)
DeWine said he signed the bill to remove an “ambiguity in Ohio’s self-defense law,” according to Cleveland.com. “I have always believed that it is vital that law-abiding citizens have the right to legally protect themselves when confronted with a life-threatening situation,” said DeWine in a statement.
“Crimes can happen quickly and without warning. Most victims have a split second to react with the best course of action for their survival,” said John Weber, Ohio state director for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) in a statement. “By signing SB 175, Gov. DeWine ensures the law favors victims and not criminals.”
Although the new measure strengthens Ohio’s self-defense laws, it is not a free pass to use a firearm against another person. If you shoot somebody, and it is not in self-defense, you could face criminal charges. However, due to a law passed in 2019, the burden is on the state to prove that your actions were not self-defense.
Duty to Retreat Will No Longer Be a Factor in Self-Defense Cases
Ohio is the 36th state to pass “stand your ground” legislation. The elimination of the duty to retreat was not originally part of Senate Bill 175. That provision was added by the Ohio House of Representatives in December 2020, and approved by the Ohio Senate in the final version of the bill that was sent to DeWine. The law explicitly states that:
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.
In other words, until the new law is officially on the books, if you are on trial for shooting somebody in self-defense, you will have to prove you could not escape. But starting on April 4, you will not be legally required to attempt to escape before using lethal force. As Buckeye Firearms Association explains, the new law broadens Ohio’s “castle doctrine,” which removed the duty to retreat in your home and car, but not in other locations.
Know Your Rights. Talk to a Zanesville Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer
Using a firearm in self-defense is never a decision to take lightly. If you do so, the case will almost certainly end up before the courts. Even when the law is on your side, you might need the services of Graham & Graham’s criminal defense lawyers to make sure your rights are upheld and your freedom is preserved.
Contact us for a free case review, and keep this number in your phone for whenever and wherever you need help with a criminal defense matter: 1-800-625-8585.