Tag Archive for Ohio law

What is Castle Doctrine?

I was in an online discussion today where the topic of Castle Doctrine came up and there were quite a few statements made exposing misconceptions about what it really means.

In Ohio, like many states, there are very specific circumstances when deadly force is “allowed” to be used. I put that in quotes because killing or intentionally seriously injuring another person is illegal. When you make a claim of self-defense, you are actually admitting to a crime! However, you are attempting to invoke an “affirmative defense” that excuses your actions. If you meet all of the criteria you are more likely to be found to be justified.

The first set of criteria they are looked at are referred to as Jeopardy, Ability, and Means. Jeopardy means you were in real danger of serious bodily harm or death.

Ability means that the other person had the capability to cause that serious bodily harm or death. An example of the difference is that a small, frail, 90-year-old man may wish to harm a fit, young man but does not possess the strength to do so. However, if that old man had a weapon (known as a force multiplier) now he has ability.

Means, also known as Opportunity, is being able to reach you with his Ability. For example, a person may intend to harm you and is armed with a gun but is threatening you on the phone. There may be Jeopardy and Ability but lacking the Means you can’t just hunt him down.

When it comes to proving Jeopardy, Ability, and Means the jury is allowed to take into account the circumstances and determine if it is reasonable that you had an honest belief that those criteria were met. An example: you’re walking through a park at night and a person come running at you, yelling and holding a large knife over their head. If you defend yourself and it is later discovered that the knife wasn’t real you will likely still have a self-defense claim. But, it does have to be reasonable in their mind. Simply saying “I was in fear for my life” is not enough!

All that said, there are other criteria that come into play as well. Such as you not having contributed to the situation escalating to a deadly force incident or be at fault for causing it. A prime example there is a bar fight. If you are found to have been mutual combatants and you pull a weapon and use it you are very unlikely to prevail with a self-defense claim. Another good example would be if you pull a knife on someone and he pulls a gun but you stab him before he can shoot you it isn’t going to be a valid self-defense claim because you caused the situation.

Now we finally arrive at the topic of this piece and that is the Duty to Retreat. In Ohio, you generally have a duty to attempt to escape from a potential deadly force incident before using deadly force. However, Castle Doctrine removes this requirement if you are in your home or vehicle. That’s all it does! All those other criteria still stand and will be evaluated to determine the lawfulness of your actions.

So to say, as I saw multiple times, that anyone you catch breaking into you house can be shot due to Castle Doctrine is not true. You will still have to prove (and claiming self-defense shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense) you were in, or had a reasonable and honest belief you were in, Jeopardy; that the other person had the Ability to cause serious bodily harm or death; and that he or she also possessed the Means to do so.

To help you visualize how this comes into play here are some real examples where deadly force was not justified:

  • A drunk came home to the wrong house and knocked what he thought was his own door down.
  • An elderly woman with dementia returned to her previous residence and was able to gain entry
  • A father heard a noise in the house at night and armed himself to investigate. He ended up shooting his son’s friend who was staying the night unbeknownst to the father.
  • A woman was home alone and heard someone enter the house, climb the stairs, and approach the bedroom. She fired a shot through the door, killing her husband who had returned from deployment and way trying to surprise her.

These are just a couple of examples of situations where Castle Doctrine will not save you from a homicide charge. Simply saying you were afraid (even if you really were!) is not enough. Use of deadly force is a serious matter and you owe it to yourself and your family to learn when it is prudent to use that force and when it is not.

How to get a concealed handgun license in Ohio

Obtaining a concealed handgun license (CHL)  in Ohio is a fairly straightforward process, but does require some time and commitment.

First of all, you have to get gun safety training. Ohio requires 12 hours of instruction, including a minimum of two hours of live-fire gun range training. This training must be conducted by a certified instructor. The two most common are Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission trainers and instructors certified by the National Rifle Association. As part of this training, you are required to take a written test as well as demonstrate that you’ve learned how to safely handle a gun. Certain other forms of proof of training are also acceptable, such as military training or police training. You can find instructors by visiting many local gunshops, the NRA training website, or OhioCCWTraining.org. Of course, Northcoast Firearms Training provides certified training for both students and those persons wanting to be concealed carry instructors.

Once you have the training, you need to fill out an application for the license. These are available from your local sheriff or you can download them online. The application must include, to the best of your knowledge, every address you’ve lived at since you turned 18 (note that you must be at least 21 years old to apply and be a legal resident of Ohio for at least 45 days). It is recommended to fill out the application at home unless you want to sit in the sheriffs office for a long time working on it.

Once you have the application filled out, you can turn it in. You have to apply for a CHL with a county sheriff, either of the county you live in or a neighboring (adjacent) county. You’ll need to bring with you your proof of training (a photocopy of your training certificate or affidavit), a color photograph (the kind used for passports are best) taken within 30 days and a fee of $67 if you’ve lived in Ohio for at least five years or $91 if you have not. Note that some sheriffs are very specific about the forms of payment they will accept, so you are advised to call ahead. Some also require you to make an appointment to drop off your application.

You will also need to have read the concealed carry laws booklet published by the Ohio Attorney General (available for download from their website). When you apply, you will be fingerprinted (electronically at most sheriff’s offices) and they will conduct a background check. If you have any felonies, drug offenses, or certain violent misdemeanors or were put into a mental health facility by a court you may be declined for the license.

Ohio law specifies that a sheriff has 45 days to issue or deny the license. Once you have it, it is good for five years. The renewal fee is currently $50.

It is also important to note that there is a Temporary Emergency License available in Ohio. You can obtain this license if you have reasonable proof of a threat against you and it is intended to allow you to carry a concealed handgun while you are going through the training and waiting process to obtain a regular CHL.

More information is available by reading the Ohio Revised Code section 2923.125.

Buying a gun

For many people who have never bought one before, buying a gun can be a daunting prospect. What laws do I need to know about? What do I need to bring? How do I go about picking one out? Can I buy one for my wife? How do I get it registered? All are common questions. In this article, I’ll try to cover the basics.

In Ohio, buying a gun is a pretty straight forward process, but there are two different sets of procedures. You do not need any kind of permit to buy a gun (but you do need one if you want to carry it concealed or in a motor vehicle).

For private sales, there is very little regulation. If you want to buy a gun from someone you know, they can sell it to you without all the red tape noted in the next paragraph, provided you’re not prohibited from owning the gun (we’ll come back to that).

Most people, though, buy their first gun from a gun shop or the sporting goods department of stores like Gander Mountain, Dick’s Sporting Goods, etc. For commercial sales of handguns, there are a few hoops to jump through.

Once you decide which gun to buy, there is paperwork to fill out. You’ll be given a Form 4473, which is a firearms transaction record published by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. It asks you to list information such as your name, address, date of birth, and some questions about your background (are you a fugitive from justice, have you been convicted of a felony, etc.). You will also need to produce identification, such as a driver’s license or state ID. Once you fill out this form, which takes about 5 minutes, the store clerk will call the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This system conducts a quick records check (usually less than a minute) to try to determine if you are disqualified from owning a firearm. Three things can happen, you can be approved, denied, or delayed. Approval is most common, denied means they found what seems to be a disqualification (you can appeal), and delayed means they need more time to conduct a more thorough check. The last one can sometimes happen if you have a name that is similar to someone who has committed a felony.

Once that is completed, you’re good to go. Ohio has no waiting periods on firearms purchases and does not require gun registration. Some local cities used to require guns to be registered, but those laws were overturned when the Ohio legislature passed “statewide preemption”, which means only the state and federal government can pass most types of gun laws.

Now, for both private and commercial sales, you still have to follow laws about who is allowed to own a firearm. While both the U.S. and Ohio constitutions guarantee a right to bear arms, you can lose those rights for certain things. Being convicted of a violent felony, assault on a police officer, many drug offenses, suffering from alcohol abuse, being adjudicated mentally incompetent, and you must be at least 18 years old for rifles and shotguns and 21 for handguns. Note that even if you meet those requirements, a gun shop can still make the decision to refuse a sale if they’re not comfortable with it. For example, someone who appears clearly agitated might be asked to leave.

When it comes to buying guns for someone else, that’s ok as long as that person meets the requirements in the preceding paragraph. If they’re allowed to own a gun, it is legal for you to buy one for them. This usually comes into play when guns are bought as gifts. However, if the person you are buying the gun for is not allowed to have one, that is called a “straw purchase” and is a felony.

As to the question of how to pick out a gun, well, that will require another article. Some things to keep in mind are your price range, how the gun feels in your hand, what you intend to use it for (different guns are used to hunt different animals and some self-defense handguns might be no good for hunting), how strong you are, etc. Most gun shops have friendly, knowledgeable clerks who will be more than happy to answer your questions and help you decide.

Please note that I only tried to cover the basics. For more information, please read this informative fact sheet from the NRA: http://www.nraila.org/statelawpdfs/OHSL.pdf