UNANIMOUS: Ohio Senate Passes Castle Doctrine!

In its sixth (and final!) hearing on Ohio's Castle Doctrine legislation today, the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice accepted yet another amended substitute SB184, passed the bill (Committee members Teresa Fedor and Shirley Smith - both Democrats - voted no, Senator Lance Mason, the third Democrat committee member, was absent).

Just a few hours later, the full Senate took up consideration of the bill. It received 31 yeas, 0 nays. There are 33 members in the Senate, but Sens. Gardner and Schuler were absent).

Following testimony by Republican Senator Steve Buehrer, the bill's primary sponsor, Democrat Sens. Ray Miller, Capri Cafaro, Tom Sawyer and Teresa Fedor rose in support of the bill. (Fedor's comments cited "long consideration" of the bill since her "nay" vote in committee just a couple of hours earlier.)

Republican Bob Spada, who noted that he has never before stood in support of a pro-self-defense bill, also expressed his support. Republican Sen. Bill Seitz rose to explain the insertion of an amendment that allows for multiple firearm specifications if a criminal kills multiple victims.

Finally, Republican Sen. Tim Grendell, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice during hearings on SB184, rose to acknowledge "Ken Hanson from Buckeye Firearms and John Murphy from the Ohio Prosecutors' Association", saying "they truly gave input, they had both patience with the process but also persistence from their own viewpoints." He then urged passage of the bill.

An archive of the floor debate can be viewed here.

Click here to download the version as passed by the Ohio Senate.

UPDATE April 21: The Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee, which has already held three hearings on SB184's companion legislation, has removed SB184 from consideration of Castle Doctrine on its originally scheduled date of April 24.

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Media Coverage:

  • Cleveland Plain Dealer - Ohio Senate OK's deadly force against intruders

    Deadly force could be used against people who unlawfully enter the homes and cars of Ohio citizens under legislation passed unanimously by the Ohio Senate Wednesday.

    The so-called "Castle Doctrine" bill was one of several the Senate passed before adjourning for the week.

    ...Sen. Steve Buehrer, a suburban Toledo Republican, traced the origin of the Castle Doctrine back hundreds of years, calling it "common sense that has come down to us from the Middle Ages - people have a right to defend themselves in their own homes." The bill now moves to the Ohio House.

    Under current Ohio law, if you shoot an intruder dead in your home, you have to prove self-defense by showing you were in imminent danger and the only way to escape harm was through force.

    While Ohio case law has established that residents sometimes use deadly force without retreating, Buehrer said: "We are one anti-gun judge and one anti-gun prosecutor away from seeing those rights disappear."

    The bill also bars criminals from suing in civil court for injuries suffered in the act of committing crimes.

  • Columbus Dispatch - Bill sets self-defense rule

    If a man's home is his castle, then that man has every right to shoot an intruder who would dare to break in.

    That's the gist of Senate Bill 184, the so-called Castle Doctrine. It presumes that a resident acted in self-defense if he or she used force against someone who unlawfully enters the person's home or occupied vehicle. Pushed by the National Rifle Association, the bill passed the Senate unanimously yesterday and now moves to the House.

    Sen. Stephen Buehrer, R-Delta, said his bill is "affirming a fundamental exercise of Ohioans' Second Amendment rights."

    Though common law generally allows people to defend themselves or others from an intruder by lethal means, lawmakers want to leave no doubts.

    "Despite these common-law recognitions, we in Ohio are one anti-gun judge or prosecutor away from seeing these rights disappear," Buehrer said.

    Sen. Tom Sawyer said he is uncomfortable dealing with firearms issues, but he views the proposal a different way.

    "This bill does not deal with firearms. This bill deals with a right to defend yourself," the Akron Democrat said. "When I stopped thinking about guns and started thinking about the baseball bat I keep by my bed … it puts a whole different light on the question."

    ...The bill also prevents a person from filing a civil lawsuit because of something that occurred while the person was committing a crime. For example, a burglar can't sue if he breaks his neck after running out of your house and slipping on the front porch.

    The bill also allows for multiple firearm specifications if a person kills multiple victims, ending what Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, called a "volume discount for criminals."

  • Dayton Daily News - Senate bill gives homeowners right to self-defense in Ohio

    In Ohio, the homes of men and women should be their castles and they have a right to defend them. That's the thrust of legislation the Senate passed Wednesday, April 16.

    The Senate's version of the so-called "castle doctrine" — dating to the Middle Ages — gives you the right to defend yourself against an intruder in your home or car with a gun, baseball bat or anything else.

    "A man's home is his castle. ... People have a right to defend themselves," said Sen. Stephen Buehrer, R-Delta, sponsor of Senate Bill 184.

    You can do that now, but under current law it's up to you to prove you acted in self-defense. Senate Bill 184 puts the burden on prosecutors to prove you didn't act in self-defense "when using defensive force that is likely to cause death or great bodily harm."

    "We changed the law to say that you have the presumption of having acted in self-defense and the burden is on the state to prove that you were not acting in self-defense," said Sen. Tim Grendell, R-Chesterland.

    The vote was 31-0.

    The bill also makes sure that an intruder or his or her relatives can't sue you if he or she is injured or killed while invading your home. Someone convicted of a crime in connection with the intrusion is already barred from filing suit, said Grendell.

    A new provision bars a lawsuit even if the intruder hasn't been charged or convicted, Grendell said. The bill now goes to the House.

    Gov. Ted Strickland supports the "castle doctrine" generally and is reviewing the legislation, said Keith Dailey, Strickland's spokesman.

  • WCMH TV (NBC Columbus) - Debate Remains Regarding Shooting Intruders

    Self-defense or excuse for murder? The debate on Castle Doctrine continues -- despite a landslide vote at the statehouse this week.

    Using deadly force to protect yourself from real harm in your home is already allowed by law, but if you shoot and kill, you have to prove it was self defense, NBC 4's Erin Tate reported.

    Now, a bill known as Castle Doctrine would give homeowners the benefit of the doubt. The state Senate passed it unanimously on Wednesday.

    The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence calls it a license to kill.

    If it becomes law, it extends to your vehicle, allowing you to protect yourself even from carjackers, using deadly force, Tate reported.

    The Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association also opposes the bill. It said current law is sufficient and homeowners are rarely charged with murder for opening fire out of fear.

    The Buckeye Firearms Association said that 20 states have a Castle Doctrine and said that just because the law changes, it doesn't turn honest people into bloodthirsty vigilantes.

    The law will voted on next in the Ohio House -- as early as next week.

  • Youngstown Vindicator - Ohio Senate passes bill on self-defense

    The Ohio Senate unanimously passed legislation that protects citizens from potential legal action in the event they use deadly force to defend themselves against intruders.

    Senate Bill 184, the so-called Castle Doctrine, was sponsored by Sen. Steve Buehrer, a Republican from Delta in northwestern Ohio, as what he called “common sense” legislation and protection of a “fundamental exercise of Ohioans’ Second Amendment rights.”

    The legislation, passed Wednesday, provides legal protection — that is, a presumption that they acted in self-defense — for individuals who use force to thwart others who have entered their homes, businesses or vehicles unlawfully. Dwelling, in the bill, includes homes, attached porches or other buildings.

    “People have the right to defend themselves in their home,” Buehrer said in urging support for the bill. “This bill clarifies that a person in their home has no duty to retreat in self-defense situations.”

    The legislation also would prevent those injured as a result of their criminal conduct from seeking civil damages.

    “If you commit a crime, you do so at your own peril,” Buehrer said.

    The legislation passed by a final vote of 31-0, with bipartisan support.

    “I think that the issue of law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves, their family and their property is one of the most important rights we have as Americans and Ohioans,” said Sen. Capri Cafaro of Hubbard, D-32nd, and one of the bill’s original co-sponsors.

    Sen. Tom Sawyer, a Democrat from Akron, added that he didn’t view the legislation as a gun bill, but rather as one focused on self-defense.

    “And when I stop thinking about guns, and start thinking about the baseball bat that I keep by my bed in my home, and the right that I reserve to use it to defend myself and my family in the event of an intrusion into my house, it puts a whole different light on the question,” Sawyer said. “And this bill protects me in that circumstance.”

    The bill heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.

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