Castle Doctrine - it's not just for gun owners

by Chad D. Baus

WDTN (NBC Dayton) reported recently that a man had been fatally stabbed by his girlfriend, who was at the home of her bed ridden parents when he kicked in the door.

From the article:

Homicide detectives are called to a Dayton home after a man is fatally stabbed, but the woman behind the knife may not be facing charges, according to police.

Detectives interviewed the suspect as well as other people who were witnesses to the stabbing, though officers said it could have been an act of self defense.

Police first received a call about the stabbing a little after midnight.

When they arrived at the home at 809 Harvard Blvd. in Dayton, the man had already died. That's when homicide detectives were called to the scene.

...Shortly before he was stabbed, the man had kicked in the front door to the woman's home.

What happened after that is still being investigated, though luckily, other people were inside the home and saw the whole thing.

The victim was questioned and released.

Although championed by Buckeye State gun rights activists, Ohio's Castle Doctrine law, which became law in 2008, offers significant practical improvements for all law-abiding persons in Ohio.

For all law-abiding citizens (Not just gun owners)

  • Castle Doctrine: If someone breaks into your occupied home or temporary habitation, or your occupied car, you have an initial presumption that you may act in self defense. The prosecutors may overcome this presumption if illegal activity was happening or other extenuating circumstances.
  • Civil Immunity: Crime victims will be immune from civil actions from their attackers and their families for actions that cause a criminal to be harmed or killed.
  • PROBLEM SOLVED: Previously, it was up to YOU, AT YOUR EXPENSE AND UNDER THREAT OF IMPRISONMENT, (and sometimes while actually imprisoned) to prove you were acting in self-defense. Now, when the Act becomes law, and as long as there are not any extenuating circumstances, the case ENDS and the healing begins. No hauling off to jail. No worries about criminal trial and the whims of a jury. No civil suit from the bad guy's family.

  • Duty to Retreat: A person who is lawfully in their residence or vehicle has no "duty to retreat" before using force in self-defense or defense of another.
  • PROBLEM SOLVED: Previously in a motor vehicle, the actor, not the prosecutor, at the actor's own jeopardy and expense, had the burden of proof to establish that they COULD NOT run away.

Several of Ohio's Gannett News Service newspapers recently published an extensive article examining the state's Castle Doctrine law:

From the article:

An individual has always had the right to self defense in the face of imminent and inescapable danger. In 2008, Ohio law removed the duty to retreat from the victim when they are in their home or vehicle. This means the use of an appropriate amount of force, even deadly, rather than being forced to flee is perfectly legal.

The castle doctrine, passed in Ohio three years ago, perhaps most importantly shifts the burden of proof from the resident to the government in these cases.

"If it's on the street, (the shooter has) to prove that all the elements of self-defense are applicable," Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt said. "In a home, the government would have the duty to prove it wasn't (self-defense)."

If you personally feel in danger in your home or vehicle, you have broad latitude to protect yourself and your family, according to the law and law enforcement officials charged with interpreting it.

But who's to say what's threatening when you find an unwelcome stranger in your home? Their presence alone could be threat enough to many, Marion County Prosecutor Brent Yager said.

It's difficult to imagine a grand jury even indicting someone in that situation, he said.

"You put John Q. Public in the jury box," Yager said, "and they're going to say 'Who am I to say (the homeowner) should have been frightened or not?'"

Defense attorney Sam Shamansky said as long as the intruder is not fleeing, you don't have an obligation to wait for them to make a move, either toward you or the door.

"I cant imagine a single jury in any of our 88 counties ever convicting someone for defending their own home," he said.

The article also informs readers as the difference between defending oneself (which falls under the Castle Doctrine) and protecting property (which is not protected by Ohio's Castle Doctrine law).

"Generally speaking, most cops are going to recognize what happened." Shamansky is quoted as saying. And he says if it turns out to be an act of self-defense, "They'll probably give you a medal."

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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