Ohio’s Pro-Gun Attitude and Enactment of the Castle Doctrine

Recent amendments to the Ohio Concealed Carry laws exemplify an increasingly pro-gun sentiment in the state.  In particular, the legislature enacted Senate Bill 184 as an amendment to Ohio’s Concealed Carry law, more commonly referred to as the Castle Doctrine, into law on June 10, 2008.  By passing the bill through legislature with tremendous support (31-0 in the Senate and 73-23 in the House), Ohio follows states such as Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, and 14 others, in protecting the right of gun owners to protect their “castle.”

A Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal concept derived from English Common Law, which designates one’s place of residence, or any place legally occupied, as a place in which one enjoys protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack. Ohio R.C. § 2901.05(C)(2), (3).  It then goes on to give a person the legal right to use deadly force to defend that place (his/her “castle”), or any other innocent persons legally inside it, from violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack.  Ohio R.C. §2901.05(B)(1), Ohio R.C §2901.09(B).  The legal effect of the Castle Doctine is to protect the homeowner from criminal or civil suit resulting from the use of deadly force which actually results in death.

Under previous Ohio law, a property owner had to show self-defense in order to use force to defend his home, and even then was only permitted to use a reasonable amount of force necessary to provide such defense.  “In order to establish self-defense, a [property owner] must show: (1) that he was not at fault for giving rise to the affray, (2) that he had a bona fide belief that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that his only means of escape from danger was use of such force, and (3) that he did not violate any duty to retreat or avoid the danger.”  State v. Robbins, 58 Ohio St. 2d 74 (1979).

Though the self-defense standard is greatly limited when one is defending his home (abandonment of the duty to retreat requirement, for instance), prior to the enactment of the castle doctrine, a homeowner was still severely limited in the actions he was permitted to take in defense of himself, his family, and his property.  For example, the right to use a lethal weapon did not arise until the homeowner had reasonable grounds to believe that it was necessary to protect life or prevent great bodily harm.  State v. Daugherty, 26 Ohio App. 2d 159 (1971).   Even with the availability of the self-defense justification, an innocent homeowner was still often forced to endure the rigors of the trial system and public disdain in order to clear his name.  The castle doctrine ensures this homeowner that he may do what he believes is necessary to protect himself and his family, free from the fear that he may ultimately be prosecuted for his justified actions.

The Castle Doctrine founds its first application in Ohio on September 23, 2008, just two weeks after it came into effect.  An intruder entered a garage below the apartment of 65 year-old Lawrence Hanson III on St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland, at approximately 2:45 a.m.  Hanson spotted the intruder breaking through the steel doorway, put on his boots, and grabbed his 9mm pistol.  Hanson chased the man out of his garage and to a fence about 40 feet away.  He repeatedly warned the intruder to stop, informing him that he had a gun.  The intruder turned to walk towards him.  Fearing for his life, Hanson shot the man once in the chest.  The intruder dropped to the ground and died soon after.  Due to the enactment of the Castle Doctrine in Ohio just two weeks prior, Hanson was not prosecuted for the justifiable defense of himself and his home.

In addition to adopting the Castle Doctrine, SB 184 provides other important guarantees to gun owners.  For example, the bill prohibits landlords from disallowing gun ownership by their tenants.  Ohio R.C. §2923.126(C)(3)(b).  Also, the bill clarifies formerly ambiguous law, allowing license holders to have an unloaded gun in the cab of a vehicle with ammunition nearby, and allowing possession of a gun in a school zone.  Ohio R.C. §2923.122(D)(4).

This Ohio pro-gun legislation comes against an increasing anti-gun backdrop in Washington.  With the election of Barack Obama as president, perhaps the most anti-gun president in history, and an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, the Second Amendment is under considerable attack.  As Americans see their individual rights in substantial jeopardy, gun sales are reaching record levels.  With the passage of SB 184, Ohio appears to be holding fast to Constitutional liberties at present.

To learn more about the Ohio Castle Doctrine, contact an Cleveland Ohio Personal Injury Lawyer.
See also:
To learn more about the Florida Castle Doctrine see an article written by Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer, Cynthia Veintemillas.

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