Ohio elitists react to Castle Doctrine: "Innocent until proven guilty", OH MY!

By Chad D. Baus

When is "innocent until proven guilty" a controversial concept? When is an Ohio law designed to protect a homeowner protecting themselves from an intruder interpreted a license for drug dealers to murder one another? And when are self-defense advocates and rank-and-file cops described as saying it's ok to shoot first and ask questions later?

When you are a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer or a bureaucrat with the Ohio Prosecutors' Association or Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Reginald Fields story entitled "Innocent before guilty, new self-defense law sides with homeowners protecting their 'castles'":

A homeowner who injures, maims or even kills an intruder is on the right side of the law, starting today in Ohio.

The so-called "castle doctrine" law assumes the owner was acting in self-defense and shifts the burden to police and prosecutors to prove otherwise.

Until today, people who attacked intruders had to prove they were acting in self-defense.

About 20 states have similar laws with all types of variations. Some states do not limit the self-defense presumption to the person's home but apply it to the workplace or even on the street, if the person is threatened.

In fact, Ohio's provision extends to inside vehicles. And, as it is elsewhere, Ohio's castle doctrine -- so named for the popular premise that 'one's home is one's castle' -- is steeped in controversy.

Except among elitists, is there truly any controversy on Ohio's highways and byways about the concept of being "innocent until proven guilty"? The fact is, most people in the Buckeye state have been laboring under the false premise that they already enjoyed that right.

But that doesn't stop people like John Murphy, of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association, from attempting to mislead about what the law truly does.

"The problem is defense lawyers will pick this up and use it to defend their clients who really aren't law abiding citizens in their homes," said John Murphy, of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association.

"It could be someone was dealing drugs in their house and something goes bad and so they shoot them," he said. "This is who this law will apply to."

Actually, what the law says, and what John Murphy is fully aware of, is that the presumption of innocence may be challenged and overcome if the prosecution can prove with a preponderance of the evidence that it should not apply. [See ORC Sec 2901.05(B)(3)] The law does not prevent the arrest and prosecutions where overwhelming evidence indicates that it was not a self-defense situation. Prosecutors will simply have to prove a drug dealer shouldn’t be entitled to the presumption by a mere preponderance of evidence.

Again, from the Plain Dealer:

Gun-rights advocates and some rank-and-file police officers either openly support or have no qualms with the new law. They say it is fair to shoot first and ask questions later.

"Fair to shoot first and ask questions later?" Of course that's not what any gun-rights advocate or police officer actually said, and reporter Reginald Fields doesn't offer any quotes to support the assertion that they have. He does, however, quote Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine as follows:

"If your life is in danger you don't have to prove what the intent was of some intruder who is in your house, which was absolutely insane," said Jim Irvine, of the Buckeye Firearms Association.

"You now can defend yourself up to and including using deadly force," said Irvine, adding that under the old law homeowners had to justify their actions by proving they were in danger.

...Irvine disputes the notion that the law can provide a safe haven for thugs.

"You're presumed innocent, but prosecutors can rebut that," Irvine said. "So, that covers a case that plays out wrong."

The Plain Dealer story goes on to explain some of the other improvements brought about by SB184, noting that while he Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association had no problem with the castle doctrine measure, they fought the new concealed carry provisions.

"Look at it from my perspective as a one-officer car pulling over a car with four young guns wearing white T-shirts at 3 a.m. on the mean streets of Cleveland," said Stephen Loomis, president of the patrolmen's union. "You just made it easier for these guys to not only carry the gun, but to use it."

Nothing about changes to this law aides the criminals Loomis is tasked with getting off the streets. It is still every bit as illegal for criminals to carry loaded guns (guns they are very likely not even allowed to legally be in possession of) in a motor vehicle as it was yesterday. The facts are these:

Prior to passage of Ohio's concealed carry law, citizens were allowed to transport unloaded handguns in their motor vehicles. A drafting error in HB12 made the practice illegal, and SB184 took corrective action. SB184 also took the opportunity to correct 25 years of bad case law by providing that only one statute, R.C. § 2923.16, controls the transportation of unloaded firearms in motor vehicles, and by further providing for a concrete, reliable, not open to interpretation method for legal transport of firearms by persons without an Ohio concealed handgun license.

No better evidence can be offered proving the facts were on our side in the need for this law that that legislators and our governor listened to We, the People, rather than to elitist bureacrats like Loomis, Murphy, or the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police's Mark Drum.

Thanks to We, the People, Ohioans who defend themselves from violence are once again innocent until proven guilty, and have firearms law that is more easily understood, and thereby more easily complied with. And that makes today a very good day indeed.

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

Related media coverage:
(The following represents the few stories in Ohio that have not been tainted by the Cincinnati Enquirer/ Associated Press' erroneous media reports. Compare to the dozens and dozens of erroneous stories documented here.)

Ashtabula Star-Beacon - Law gives homeowners legal leeway to use force to defend their property

“The fact that the law has changed should not change the behavior of law-abiding people,” [Ashtabula City Solicitor Michael] Franklin said, regarding the second part. “There’s no reason to act more aggressively.”

Geneva Police Chief Dan Dudik said officers are always concerned with safety and will “work within the confines of the laws provided to us by our legislators.”

“The law won’t change what the bad guys would do,” he said. “The law won’t change our response. We always have a concern with officer safety and the officers are trained to handle these situations.”

(Ohio University's) The Post - New Ohio law expands gun rights

Stephen Feltoon, Midwest regional director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus said that the Castle Doctrine is one of the more important changes in the law because now the burden of proof in a self-defense situation is with the prosecutor, not the gun owner.

“For gun rights in Ohio, it’s a huge step mostly because of Castle Doctrine,” Feltoon said. If a person is found not guilty in a firearms case, the family of the victim can no longer sue the gun owner separately under the new law, Feltoon said.

Dayton Daily News - Self-defense law will change Tuesday

For years, gun rights advocates have stressed to lawmakers the importance of protecting the home, sometimes with even deadly force.

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 9, those defenders will get the benefit of the doubt. As part of several concealed carry law updates scheduled to take effect, Ohio will adopt a version of the Castle Doctrine, which states that a person using force against an intruder in the home or car is presumed to have acted in self-defense.

Gun rights advocates say the law is a long time coming, while prosecutors are concerned that the trying of such cases will be more difficult.

..."Right now, if someone breaks into your house tonight and waves a knife at you and you shoot them, you have to prove their intent," said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, a state gun rights advocacy group.

"They're saying, 'Was their intent to sell you knives, or to kill you? Well, prove it.' That's what is going to change," Irvine said.

WBNS (Columbus CBS)/ Ohio News Network - Gun Law Changes

Buckeye Firearms Association Central Ohio Chair Gerard Valentino appears at length in this nearly two-minute video on 10TV/ONN. The Ohio FOP's Mark Drum can also be heard imagining that renewing the right of citizens to transport unloaded handguns in a motor vehicle - a right which existed prior to 2004 and which was only removed due to a drafting error - is somehow going to turn out differently this time.

WTOV (Steubenville NBC) - Ohio's 'Castle Doctrine' Will Allow Guns On School Property

"You can pretty much assume that anyone in the area of a school is unarmed and a school is a hot target. It would be an easy place for a crime to take place," said Buckeye Firearms Association member Rick Kaleda.

...The law doesn't allow guns to be taken through school doors. Instead, parents will be allowed to carry a gun in parking lots or sidewalks while picking up and dropping off their kids. The gun must to be kept in the car and can't be left unattended.

“Even in the simple sense, you're waiting for your child at the pick up drop off place and your child falls and hurts themselves. A person who is carrying can't even get out and assist their own child," explained Kaleda.

Youngstown Vindicator - Beware of owner: New law empowers residents

Sen. Steve Buehrer, a Republican from Delta in northwest Ohio and primary sponsor of the legislation, worked on the bill for several years and a couple of general assemblies. He called its passage and today’s implementation a victory for law-abiding citizens.

“I think it’s a great victory not only for people who support Second Amendment issues but people who simply want to feel safer in their homes, safer in their communities,” he said.

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