HB264 Seeks To Protect Victims In Self Defense Situations
By State Representative Lynn Wachtmann
For years, governments have enacted laws that state one’s home is a place where one should be free of prying and violent attack. Known as “Castle Laws,” they are often based on English Common Law from the 1700s. However, over the years many of these laws, while acknowledging the safety and protections of the home, have placed a burden on a person to retreat before being permitted to use force to defend themselves.
In Ohio, if one is attacked in one’s own home, one is not forced to flee the home before using deadly force. However, Ohio’s current self-defense law places the civil and criminal burden on the victim to prove in court that they were truly acting to defend themselves from serious physical harm or death.
That is why I introduced House Bill 264 this past week, legislation that will give Ohioans the ability to better protect themselves, their families, and their homes from the threat of violence. The legislation seeks to create the presumption that a victim acted in self-defense until it is proven otherwise in a court of law. In addition, HB264 would grant a victim civil immunity if it is proven in court that they acted in self defense or if the local prosecutor decides not to pursue the case. Companion legislation, Senate Bill 184, has been introduced in the Senate by State Senator Steve Buehrer (R-Delta).
By creating a presumption that the victim acted in self defense, the burden is then placed on the criminal to prove they were not there to cause the person harm. Under current law, a person has to prove in court they were acting out of fear of death or serious
physical harm and show that the intruder was there to cause such harm. Additionally, since the bill also grants a person civil immunity if there is a finding that they acted in self-defense, regardless if self defense is used outside the home, those who are forced to use self defense will not have to live in fear that they may be later sued by the perpetrator.
FBI statistics show that 1/3 of all in-home attacks result in serious injury or death. Because of these statistics, more than 20 states have passed, or are considering, legislation allowing people to stand their ground and protect their homes and families from a violent attack. It is my hope that Ohio will soon join these states by reforming our self-defense laws to give individuals greater protections when defending their loved ones. House Bill 264 has been assigned to the House Criminal Justice Committee, where hearings on the bill will begin in the coming weeks. As the bill works its way through the committee process, I will be sure to keep you updated on its progress.
Our homes are designed to be places of safety, security, and sanctuary for us and for our families. In the unfortunate event that we ever have to come face-to-face with an intruder inside our home, we should be able to defend ourselves without having to worry about being charged with a crime or being sued civilly later. I believe HB 264 is a needed, common-sense reform to our self defense law that will put this burden back on the offender and hold him liable for his actions rather than the homeowner, who is truly the victim.
As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the matters we discuss here at the Statehouse. I can be reached by phone at (614) 466-3760, by e-mail at [email protected] or by writing me, State Representative Lynn Wachtmann, 77 South High Street, 11th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215.
Click here to download this important three-page bill.