Self-Defense and the Ohio Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine is intended to protect homeowners from being threatened inside their own homes, but it is complicated. If you’re claiming self-defense, you need an experienced attorney at your side.

BurglarWhen do you have the right to use deadly force in self-defense? When will the law work with you, rather than against you, in the face of threat? In Ohio, the ability to use deadly force for self-defense – and not go to jail for manslaughter or murder – must meet certain standards.

Duty to Retreat

If you are in public, on a street or in a public place, and you face a physical threat, you have what’s called a “duty to retreat” – in other words, rather than face the threat, you are required by law to do your best to escape from the threat by leaving, running away, or getting help from a peace officer. Only when the use of force is your only alternative will self-defense be found legitimate by a jury. Currently, the law in Ohio requires a defendant asserting self-defense to prove three things by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not):

(1)   That the defendant was not at fault in creating the situation giving rise to the “affray.”

(2)   That the defendant “had a bona fide belief that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and the only means to escape such danger was in the use of such force.”

(3)   That the defendant “did not violate any duty to retreat or avoid the danger” as discussed above.

The Castle Doctrine

While you have a duty to retreat when threatened in public, Ohio is a “stand your ground” state when it comes to being threatened in your own home. You do not have to retreat if an intruder enters your home and threatens you or your family.

And intruders are the clearest cases where the Castle Doctrine applies and your argument of self-defense will not be questioned when someone breaks into your home and threatens your safety or the safety of your family. At that point, you are within your rights to use deadly force to defend yourself and your family from the intruder.

In order to be protected by the Castle Doctrine, the intruder must actually be inside your home or attempting to enter (coming in/breaking through a door or window). If the intruder is simply peeking through a window and has not made an attempt to enter, you need to call 9-1-1 and request assistance from the police. For the Castle Doctrine to apply, you must actually believe that your life or the lives of your family members are in grave danger.

There are limits to the application of the Castle Doctrine.

Invited Guests

You will not be able to use self-defense against a threat from someone who has been invited to be in your home, even if it was someone else (a spouse or child) who invited the person in. There are, of course, extenuating circumstances where this would not apply and you would be allowed to use the self-defense argument, but it is rare.

Other Residents

You cannot claim self-defense against other residents of your home. For example, you cannot kick your adult child out of the home then shoot them when they try to come back in.

Departing Burglars

As much as you might think you have the right, if the burglar or intruder is leaving your home, you are no longer protected under the Castle Doctrine, because your life is no longer in imminent danger.

Delivery People

You cannot use self-defense against postal workers or FedEx drivers who have short-term rights to be on your property. You also cannot use self-defense if you’re not home and arrive to find someone breaking in. Then, you must call the police.

The only other time the Castle Doctrine applies is if you are in your car and must act in self-defense to preserve your life. The same elements apply: you must not have invited the person into the car with you, you must not be able to flee or retreat, and your life must actually be in danger.

The Castle Doctrine is intended to protect homeowners from being threatened inside their own homes, but it is complicated. If you are being charged with a crime and believe you acted in self-defense, you need an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the criminal process. For more information and a free consultation, please contact Jeff Hastings, experienced Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney.


When and Why You May Need a Criminal Defense Attorney

Cleveland CourthouseIf you are being charged with a crime in Ohio, the consequences can be devastating. Not only can you be put in jail or on probation, but the courts can also impose hefty fines. Being convicted of a crime in Ohio can also impact your future: Professional licenses can be suspended or revoked; your employment status can be negatively affected and the opportunity to find good paying job will be diminished; and your reputation in the community can be tarnished. Those convicted of a felony lose their right to own firearms as well as their right to vote while imprisoned.

Cleveland Criminal Defense Lawyer Serving Cuyahoga County and all of Northeast Ohio

If you are facing criminal charges, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can ensure that you are protected and treated fairly during the litigation process. As a criminal defense attorney, I have helped hundreds of clients in the greater Cleveland area for more than 22 years, defending them against misdemeanor and felony offenses.

What Is the Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney? 

The job of your criminal defense attorney is to make sure you are treated fairly. This means that your attorney will make sure the rules are followed regarding the way the government obtains its evidence and how they handle the criminal proceedings in court.

Every person in this country has the right to be presumed innocent unless guilt is proven beyond all reasonable doubt. So it is my job as your criminal defense attorney to make sure that the evidence introduced is fairly obtained, that any interviews conducted of you and other witnesses are properly performed, and that no exculpatory evidence (evidence that would prove your innocence) is overlooked or unfairly hidden from the jury and judge.

The job of a criminal defense attorney is more than just playing a role in defending the individual client. He or she works to protect your freedom during the court process and employs investigators that conduct their own inquiries, to determine what really happened. Criminal defense attorneys play a role in protecting all Ohio citizens from the Government’s use of unfair practices.

Criminal Cases in Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio 

No two criminal defense cases are the same, and no two defendants are either. I work carefully to represent and defend you by focusing on your individual needs. The same criminal case may even be handled differently in different counties, and I consider your location, whether you’re in Cuyahoga County or elsewhere in Northeast Ohio, in my approach to your defense. I have experience representing clients who have been charged with both misdemeanors and felonies in many counties through-out in Ohio by providing the following services:

  • Researching legal issues
  • Comprehensively investigating the facts of the case
  • Suppressing illegally obtained evidence and witnesses
  • Assisting you in preparing for trial
  • Negotiating with the prosecutor’s office
  • Representing you during the trial
  • Selecting the best possible jury when necessary
  • Representing you during sentencing if necessary

If you have been charged with a serious crime in Cleveland or Northeast Ohio, you need an experienced criminal attorney to help you navigate the criminal process. For more information and a free consultation, please contact Jeff Hastings, experienced Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney.