It can be alarming to hear news stories of homeowners defending themselves and their property, and many films include such tension-packed scenes. If you live in Ohio, learn what means of defense homeowners can take if something like this should happen. Learn more about Ohio Castle Doctrine, and what the state recognizes as justifiable self-defense.
Understanding “Imminent Danger”
It’s important to understand the idea of “imminent danger” when discussing the legal parameters of Castle Doctrine. In a 2015 Akron case, home invaders threatened a man named David Hills at gunpoint, then left. Hills grabbed his own firearm, followed the robbers outside, and shot and killed one of them, as they fled the scene. Imminent danger law vary across state; under Ohio Castle Doctrine, the threat is null if it’s no longer there. Hills was convicted of voluntary manslaughter because he was no longer considered at risk when he shot the gun.
Compare that to the 2017 Springfield case of Timothy Reed, who was found innocent of using his gun as self-protection. Reed was threatened and injured while stuck in his car, but managed to grab his gun and shoot the assailant. Although the shot proved fatal, Reed acted under Castle Doctrine because he had no other escape escape from immediate harm.
What Constitutes Castle Doctrine Enforcement
Castle Doctrine protects your literal castle. In its original incarnation, the law intended for the person to escape from harm before employing forcible self-defense. However, a 2008 updated allows for you to use force if trapped on the premises. The key factor is being inside your home or office, or in a vehicle. If a roadside argument about who caused a car accident gets heated, Castle Doctrine does not apply.
Situations that May Call for Castle Doctrine
- A substantial threat of bodily harm occurring where you live or work, or in a vehicle. Substantial threat involves a weapon or body; someone merely shouting that they’re “going to get you” is not enough. If someone comes to your home for the express purpose of a verbal argument and won’t leave, call the police.
- Someone intruding who does not have a right to be there. This is why it’s also important to get a criminal or civil restraining order in volatile domestic situations. It’s not a crime if the person has legal right to be on property or have access to the vehicle. Nor can you claim self-defense to deter police or other authorities from entering your home or office. Even if police use force to search or serve a warrant, they have the right to do so.
- Assisting or defending someone else in a violent attack, if there is no other reasonable recourse.
Note that if you are found justifiable under this law, you cannot be sued for injuries or death.
When Castle Doctrine Does Not Apply
- Trespassers or solicitors with no intention of harm. You may not like people trying to sell something, or cutting across your lawn, but it’s not a dangerous act.
- Following the assailant after they leave. If someone threatens you with a weapon, or hurts you and they leave, do not follow. Never mind the additional risk to your safety, but you cannot harm an assailant if they have left the property. If they return and you are able to defend yourself, then yes, you may act under Ohio Castle Doctrine.
- Property theft or damage. Unless there is a violent element (i.e, carjacking), someone stealing your car or possessions isn’t sufficient just cause.
- If you initiate or manipulate a situation. In the 2015 case of Nicholas Carosiello, he unsuccessfully argued Castle Doctrine to justify shooting and killing his ex-wife. Carosiello knew of her robbery plans, and purposefully made it easier for her to break into his house. His complicity invalidated a plea of self-defense and he was sentenced to life for murder.
Ohio recently approved House Bill 228, “Stand Your Ground,” which allows for self-defensive measure to be taken off-property. Familiarize yourself with both laws, so you know your rights and options for protecting you and your home. Should you experience a traumatic event, please contact our office for legal assistance and guidance.