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Ohio’s Self-Defense Laws

Ohio’s Self-Defense Laws

At the end of last year, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill that affects concealed handgun licensure and stand your ground defenses. The Ohio Senate is currently considering the House Bill 203 provisions.

HB 203 would make significant changes to several aspects of Ohio’s gun laws, including the legal threshold for a shooting in public to qualify as self-defense.

Under the law now, for a shooting to be considered self-defense, the defendant must present evidence of attempting to retreat from a threatening situation occurring in public. People have no such duty to retreat from their homes or cars before resorting to violence in response to a threat. HB 203 would expand the stand your ground defense to public places.

The law is complicated. You may, in fact, feel justified in using violence to protect yourself or another person. But, to prove self-defense, you must meet the high legal standards.

Ohio imposes the burden of proving an affirmative defense on the defendant. To prevail, you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence — or that it is more likely than not — that you committed the act in self-defense. Your defense does not, however, affect the state’s burden of proving the criminal charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. But by asserting a self-defense claim, a defendant typically admits to committing the shooting, which can create a catch-22 unless the person has the level of evidence necessary to demonstrate self-defense.

Even if you believe you have a solid self-defense claim, do not say anything to investigators until your lawyer is present. Law enforcement officers can — and often do — take suspects’ words out of context or coax them into making inconsistent statements during the confusing, frightening aftermath of the shooting. You have the right to remain silent and to consult with a criminal defense attorney — exercise your rights.


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