Is it Legal to Shoot an Intruder Under Ohio Law?

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When are you allowed to use deadly force to defend your property? Can the intruder sue you for wounding them? Will you be criminally charged with assault or murder? While laws in Ohio permit the use of basic force to safeguard your possessions, the guidelines for deadly force are different.

If someone is trying to steal your bicycle or wallet when you’re out, for instance, then you can’t fire a weapon to stop them in the absence of a serious threat to your life. But in the case of robbery or aggravated robbery, an element of threatened use of force enters the picture.

Assuming you don’t violate the duty to retreat, deadly force will likely be justified. This is even more applicable to scenarios where your requirement to retreat doesn’t apply, such as in your car or home. You will then be presumed to have acted reasonably in using deadly force. However, there are some important considerations here.

Understanding Self-Defense Laws

In Ohio, you have the right to defend yourself, others, or your property. Keep in mind that if you harm or kill another person defending yourself, you can still be charged with a crime. If this happens, you’d raise an affirmative defense explaining that you acted in self-defense. Basically, you admit that what’s claimed is true (that you hurt another person) but offer a legal justification for your actions.

However, there are limits regarding how much force you exert when you’re acting in self-defense. Typically, you can’t bring a gun to a fistfight and expect your self-defense argument to fly. You must use a reasonable amount of force - whatever’s necessary to combat the threat being posed.


Additionally, under the state’s self-defense laws, you must also:

       ●       Not cause the altercation

       ●       Believe that an attack is imminent

       ●       Withdraw from the conflict when possible

       ●       Have reason to assume your method of defense is appropriate

There are some exceptions to these general rules. Under Ohio’s Castle Doctrine, you will automatically be presumed to have acted in self-defense if you injure or kill another person who is breaking into your home unlawfully. It would be up to the state to prove - beyond a reasonable doubt - that you did not, in fact, act in self-defense.

The Castle Doctrine

You’re the king or queen of your Castle. In Ohio, you have the right to take action to defend yourself, others, and your home if it is under attack.

More specifically, you have the right to disarm, harm, or shoot an intruder in your home. Under the state’s Castle Doctrine statute, you don’t even have to retreat. ORC Section 2901.09 explains that your actions will be presumed to have been reasonable and in self-defense - at least until you have the ability to overcome the intruder and neutralize the threat posed.

Here are the other conditions that need to be met for the Castle Doctrine to apply:

       ●       You were not the instigator

       ●       You were not participating in any illegal activity

       ●       The defendant entered forcefully and unlawfully

       ●       You were authorized to be in the location where the crime occurred

For example, you can’t use deadly force on someone that’s running out of your yard. The Castle Doctrine applies to cars in Ohio, too. However, a vehicle usually needs to be occupied as well.

Trespassing Laws

There’s a noteworthy distinction between burglars and trespassers. You can use basic force to defend your possessions with absolute certainty. But when it comes to keeping uninvited guests (who don’t intend to commit other crimes) off your property, the use of deadly force is generally unsupported by Ohio self-defense law. The Castle Doctrine only applies when you’re in your home or vehicle.

Finally, it’s best to avoid setting up traps of any sort. Using them to avert intruders can lead to serious criminal charges.

Winning Your Case

If you’ve been charged with a crime for shooting an intruder in Ohio, having a Columbus top criminal defense attorney by your side is a great idea - especially if you used a weapon. Lawyers have the expertise that makes navigating the complex legal process less stressful and more conducive to a positive outcome. Consultations are typically offered for free and attorneys can help answer your many questions and provide advice.


Comments (1)

Dan Hopper
Dan Hopper - Gold Way RE - Westminster, CO
Denver Broker / Real Estate Advocate

Regardless, of which State you are in ... always carry insurance to protect your gun rights, especially a concealed weapon permit holder.

Sep 03, 2020 06:07 AM