Ohio Castle Doctrine Laws and Your Right to Defend Yourself in a Home Invasion

October 29, 2012

Misc. Topics

home invasion in Ohio“A man’s home is his castle” isn’t just some folksy saying.  In Ohio it is the basis of “the castle doctrine”. This is the nickname for a group of state laws which define a person’s right to defend himself from imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death when inside his or her home.  More than 20 states have similar laws.

Following changes to self-defense laws in Ohio in September 2008, a person no longer has a duty to retreat inside a residence they lawfully occupy, and that person can use deadly force in defending oneself or others in jeopardy.  One does not have to call the police first.

In Ohio, a person also does not have to retreat if that person is lawfully inside a vehicle that he owns or one owned by an immediate family member if an imminent threat from another person arises.

However, the occupier of the home or vehicle must not be at fault in the altercation and he or she must reasonably believe that deadly force was necessary to prevent serious bodily harm or death.  If your life or the life of others is not in danger, it is best to withdraw from a confrontation if it is safe to do so.

The presumption of self-defense is a rebuttable presumption.  This means the prosecutor carries the burden of producing evidence contrary to the presumed facts.

If the prosecutor provides evidence to show the home or car owner created the confrontation or that deadly force was not reasonably necessary in the situation, the presumption of self-defense no longer exists. (See Ohio Revised Code sections 2905.05, 2901.09 and 2307.601).

Anyone who kills in self-defense, at home or in public, can be in legal jeopardy.  Claiming self-defense does not mean criminal charges will not be filed.  Prosecutors tend to aggressively prosecute and the self-defense statutes are open to interpretation.

A homeowner may also be civilly liable if the intruder’s family claims their relative was killed unjustifiably.  For example, if a person shoots a fleeing intruder who no longer poses an imminent threat, the shooter would probably not be covered by the castle doctrine.

It is always a good idea to be able to articulate why you were in fear of your life or the lives of others at the time of the incident and to talk to an Ohio lawyer before making any statements to anyone.

Jack Dillon of Elyria, Ohio is claiming self-defense in the recent fatal shooting of 29-year-old, Jeffrey Carson.  Carson entered Dillon’s home around 3 a.m. Oct. 19 through a downstairs window presumably to rob the dwelling.  Dillon was asleep on the downstairs sofa and was awakened by Carson’s entry, according to police.  Dillon’s wife was asleep upstairs. Dillon said he called out to the intruder who lunged at him.  The homeowner then picked up a loaded gun which he kept nearby and shot Carson.  Police are investigating the incident.

In a controversial castle doctrine case in Kalispell, Montana, a 24-year-old man, Brice Harper, recently learned that he will not be prosecuted for shooting and killing 40-year-old Dan Fredenberg, the husband of Harper’s alleged lover.

Fredenberg entered the open garage of the younger man’s residence at night after Harper and Mrs. Fredenberg had spent the day together packing because Harper was allegedly moving out of town.  When Fredenberg arrived, Harper said he felt he was being threatened.  He retrieved his gun from his bedroom and shot Fredenberg three times, then claimed self-defense.

It was later discovered Fredenberg was unarmed, but it is the impression the home defender has concerning his welfare that is central to this type of case, not who is armed and who is not.

In Montana (since 2009) the standard for making a self-defense claim is lower than Ohio’s.  One only has to reasonably believe he is going to be assaulted by another who is illegally inside the dwelling.  The defender does not have to prove he is afraid for his life.

According to FBI figures, 665 justifiable homicides were committed in the U.S. in 2010.  Forty two percent of those—nearly half—were committed by private citizens.

If any legal problems should arise in your family concerning Ohio castle doctrine laws or any other type of self-defense issue, please feel free to contact an experienced attorneyat Slater & Zurz LLP.  We will listen to the facts of your case and advise you of your next step.  Contact us at 1-888-534-4850 or send us a message from our website at slaterzurz.com

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About slaterzurz

Slater & Zurz LLP is an Ohio law firm of highly experienced and respected attorneys. Over the last 40 years, we have developed a reputation for getting positive results for clients. We've been trusted with handling over 20,000 personal injury cases and our clients have received more than $120,000,000.

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One Comment on “Ohio Castle Doctrine Laws and Your Right to Defend Yourself in a Home Invasion”

  1. Bennett Swanson Says:

    I believe that, this castle doctrine law should be taken into careful consideration. Why not contact the police first, say that the supposedly victim is not following the law. My bother was murdered almost 2yrs ago. He and his girlfriend had a fight she ran to the neighbors home,who was a friend of the family. My brother went xt door to retrieve his girlfriend, who is the mother ofheir four kidsl the homeowner, who is a felon, shot and killed my brother shot nine times…front; behind. Afterwards the victim fled from the scene of the crime and disposed of the evidence. He leaves behind kids, siblings, and the family mourning over the loss of a loved one.


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