On January 4, 2021, Governor DeWine signed SB 175, colloquially known as the stand your ground bill. Among other things, the bill eliminates in Ohio the duty to retreat prior to using force in self-defense. In doing so, Ohio joins roughly two dozen other states with similar laws. The law will take effect in 90 days.
Current Ohio Law and the Castle Doctrine
Currently, under Ohio law, individuals are presumed to have acted in self-defense when using deadly force when they are not the aggressor, when they believe they are in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and are in their home or vehicle. This is what’s known as the castle doctrine under the idea that an individual’s home is their castle and they have a right to defend it. This doctrine, enacted into law in 2008, removed the duty to retreat before using self-defense in their home or vehicle. Under the castle doctrine an individual still had a duty to retreat when using self-defense in public places.
The self-defense laws were further expanded in Ohio in 2019, when the law was amended to shift the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the defense to the prosecution. This change required prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person who used deadly force did not do so in self-defense, defense of another or defense of the person’s residence. Previously, claiming self-defense required a defendant to prove it. Now, the State of Ohio is required to prove you were not acting in self-defense.
How does SB 175 expand self-defense?
As noted above, the castle doctrine did not remove the duty to retreat when in public places. SB 175, though, builds upon the castle doctrine and removes the duty to retreat when using self-defense in any place that the person has a legal right to be.
What else does SB 175 impact?
The stand your ground bill’s impact is not solely related to criminal issues. The bill also touches upon civil liability and grants civil immunity to churches, synagogues, mosques and other nonprofits when defensive shootings occur on their premises.