On Jan. 4, 2021, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 175 into law which makes “stand your ground” the law of Ohio starting April 6.

In April 2019, we wrote an article about Ohio’s new self-defense law shifts the burden of proof to the state of Ohio about then-recent changes to Ohio’s self-defense law which placed the burden to prove someone did not act in self-defense upon the state of Ohio. Now, with Ohio’s stand your ground law being the second major amendment in less than two years, many might say the resembles a moving target.

While the term is often hurled during heated political debate, many who are unfamiliar with the law are left to wonder, “what is a stand your ground" law anyway and why are people so passionately in favor of, or opposed to stand your ground laws?

Some may be surprised to learn that the stand your ground law does not add anything to Ohio’s existing self-defense law. Instead, it removes something – the duty to retreat.

In general, and as Ohio’s self-defense law previously stated, before someone could legally use lethal force in self-defense, they had a legal duty to retreat, or obligation to get away from a situation without using deadly force if they were safely and reasonably able to do so.

But even Ohio’s previous self-defense law had exceptions to this duty to retreat rule in that it did not apply in one’s own home or vehicle (commonly known as the Castle Doctrine), but it applied everywhere else. Stated differently, Ohio has had a type of stand your ground law for many years, but it was limited to your house and your car.

The new stand your ground law eliminates the duty to retreat altogether and reads:

“For purposes of any section of the Ohio Revised Code that sets forth a criminal offense, a person has no duty to retreat before using force in self defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, if that person is in a place in which the person lawfully has a right to be (for example, Public Square or Acacia Walking Trails). See R.C. § 2901.09 (B)

Additionally, Ohio’s new stand your ground law states that, in a self-defense case, a judge or a jury cannot even “consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not a person who used force in self-defense … reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent injury, loss, or risk to life or safety.”

Now, with Ohio’s new stand your ground law, someone can use deadly force to defend themselves or a third person, without retreating, as long as they are in a place they are legally allowed to be; they did not initiate or escalate the altercation; and they actually and reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to defend themselves or someone else.

Stand your ground laws tend to draw considerable controversy and criticism from gun opponents who equate the laws with nothing short of a license to kill. On the other hand, proponents of the law champion its enactment and consider it a common-sense initiative aimed at helping law-abiding citizens defend themselves, their property and others against deadly threats.

Regardless of where you may fall on the issue, the debate rages on, and how Ohio’s stand your ground law will impact efforts toward curbing gun violence (a goal shared by those on both sides of the debate) is yet to be seen.

Larry W. Zukerman is the managing partner of Zukerman, Lear & Murray, Co., LPA in Cleveland and Adam M. Brown is an associate attorney.

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