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No Standing Your Ground Outside Your Home—the Castle Doctrine

The Trevon Martin shooting case made Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law a topic of national interest. “Stand Your Ground” provides that a person threatened with death or great bodily harm need not retreat from an assailant before resorting to deadly force to defend himself — as long as the defender is in a place where he or she has a lawful right to be.

While many states have similar laws, Ohio isn’t one of them. In Ohio, if you are attacked or threatened with deadly force outside of your home or vehicle, you must retreat to a place of safety if reasonably possible.

Ohio allows you to claim self-defense after using deadly force only if all of the following conditions exist:

  • you were not at fault in creating the violent situation
  • you had a bona fide belief that you were in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm
  • your only means of escape was the use of deadly force
  • you did not violate any duty to retreat or rule to avoid the danger

Ohio modifies this “duty to retreat” if you are lawfully in your own residence, your vehicle, or in the vehicle of an immediate family member. Because the ancient Common Law of England and the United States proclaim that your home is your castle, this exception is widely known as the “Castle Doctrine.” In Ohio, this rule is also known as the “Peacock Rule” after the 1883 Ohio case that first stated the rule.cri

What if your assailant lives in the same house with you?

But what if your assailant lives with you? What if the person threatening great bodily harm or death is a spouse or other family member who resides in the same home? Must you retreat from the threat of deadly force or death if you live with your assailant?

The answer is no. In 1997 Ohio courts found that since there was no duty to retreat when you are in your own home, you therefore have no duty to retreat from an assailant who lives with you in that home.

The court ruled that a person in her own home has already retreated as far as she is able and there is no other place to which she can flee to find safety. Therefore, a person who through no fault of her own is assaulted in her home may stand her ground and meet her assailant with deadly force without any duty to retreat from her assailant’s attack.

The criminal law firm of Yavitch & Palmer Co., LPA is a firm which handles nothing but criminal defense cases in Ohio. Our professional and highly rated defense lawyers can answer any questions you have about your right to defend yourself in your own home.

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