Many Ohioans have a firearm in their home for protection. They believe in their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Most people hope they will never need to discharge the weapon, but they have a firearm if someone threatens their family by breaking into their home.
However, are you allowed to shoot someone who is breaking into your home? What are the laws regarding self-defense against an intruder? Will you be arrested for murder, homicide, or another crime if you shoot the intruder?
Self-Defense Laws in Ohio
Under many circumstances, you could shoot an intruder entering your home and claim self-defense. However, you would need to prove that you feared for your life or the lives of your family members to prove you acted in self-defense. The burden of proving a self-defense claim was up to the victim.
The self-defense laws in Ohio changed in 2018 with House Bill 228.
Governor John Kasich vetoed legislation that changed a key element in a self-defense claim. Lawmakers overrode the veto. Now, Ohioans do not have the burden of proving they feared for their lives when acting in self-defense against an intruder. The new law places the burden of proving that a homeowner was not acting in self-defense on the prosecution.
Until the bill passed in 2018, Ohio was the last state in the country that required a person to prove they feared for their lives when using deadly force on an intruder. Now, if you shoot an intruder breaking into your home, you are not required to work as hard to prove that you acted in self-defense.
Your Castle Is Your Home – Ohio’s Castle Doctrine
Twenty-three states, including Ohio, have some form of the castle doctrine. The castle doctrine is based on the premise that a person’s home is his castle. Therefore, you have the right to defend yourself and your family against intruders.
To use the castle doctrine as a defense to homicide charges if you shoot someone breaking into your home, you need to prove:
- You were in your home at the time the intruder tried to break-in
- You must have had a reasonable belief that you or your family members were under an immediate threat of serious injury or death
- You had no responsibility for creating the situation or escalating the situation
It may sound simple. You were home when someone broke into your home. You feared for your life, so you shot the person. Under the castle doctrine, you believe you are not guilty of homicide.
However, prosecutors often argue that there was no immediate threat of harm. If you were in your home, you could have called the police and barricaded the door. If the person did not have a weapon and you had a gun, it can be difficult to argue you feared for your life.
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Because self-defense and castle doctrine claims are not absolute defenses to charges of homicide, it is a good idea to talk with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Even though you and your family members were victims of a home invasion, you could end up the one on trial for shooting the intruder.
When we believe we have done nothing wrong, it is easy to forget that we need to exercise our legal rights whenever we are dealing with police officers or investigators. You are not required to answer questions or make a statement without a lawyer present.
If you are arrested, do not try to explain your side of the story. Instead, let the police officers know that you are exercising your right to remain silent. Tell them that you want an attorney present during all questioning. Do not discuss what happened with anyone other than your criminal lawyer.
Are There Limits to the Castle Doctrine and Self-Defense Claims if I Shoot an Intruder?
The other reason to have an attorney present before you answer questions or make a statement is that you do not want to say anything that could raise questions about whether the castle doctrine or self-defense applies in your case.
There are limitations to the use of deadly force inside your home.
Ohio lawmakers are debating “stand your ground” laws, so the current laws could change. However, at this time, you do not have a duty to retreat when you are inside your home. However, you cannot claim self-defense for shooting an intruder in your home if:
- You resist arrest by a police officer
- Are committing a violent felony
- Shoot intruders who are leaving your home
- You are not inside your home when the break-in occurs
- You threatened the person first
You need your actions to be viewed by a prosecutor or jury as reasonable and necessary to defend yourself and your family. If there was no threat of injury or death or you committed another crime, you might not be able to use self-defense or the castle doctrine to avoid criminal charges.
Do the Same Laws Apply to Protect Your Property?
Using deadly force to protect your property from theft is not permitted under Ohio law. If you see someone breaking into your home, you cannot use deadly force to prevent someone from breaking into your home if you are not inside your home. Likewise, if you see someone stealing your car in your front yard, you cannot shoot them from inside your home or standing in your yard.
However, if a person is using a deadly weapon to commit armed robbery or aggravated robbery, you might be able to use self-defense to justify using deadly force. The case will be complicated, which is another reason why you need a criminal defense lawyer to represent you if you shoot someone in self-defense.
Do Not Hesitate to Seek Legal Help From a Dayton Criminal Defense Lawyer
It is unimaginable that you could be the one charged with a crime for defending yourself and your family from an intruder. However, it happens.
Individuals acting in self-defense are charged with homicide, weapons charges, or other crimes. Instead of an intruder who was threatening harm to them and their family being on trial, they are fighting to keep themselves out of prison.
The consequences of shooting an intruder in your home could be severe. Do not assume that the fact that you were in your home and acting in self-defense protects you. Innocence is not the ultimate defense in a criminal case.
Instead, contact a Dayton criminal defense lawyer. Make sure that you have someone working to protect your legal rights and best interests. If not, what began as an attack on your home and your family could end up with you behind bars.