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Criminal Law & Self-Defense: Carrying Pepper Spray and Stun Guns in the State of Ohio.


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Protecting yourself and your family when out in public is crucial. Many have chosen to exercise their constitutional rights and provide this security by carrying a concealed firearm. However, there are those who may be reluctant to carry a firearm and instead pursue other means of protection. There are a variety of options for protecting yourself if you are not comfortable with possessing or do not desire to carry a concealed firearm. Two readily-available options are pepper spray and stun guns. You may have already purchased these devices for yourself or your loved ones. The question remains whether or not you have educated yourself and/or the recipient regarding the legal ramifications of carrying such a device. This post will discuss the rights and limitations concerning these devices.

Pepper Spray

Pepper spray comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is typically sold in keychain-sized canisters that require the pressing of a button to administer the spray. The spray then disrupts the physical senses of the person once it contacts the skin or is inhaled. Pepper spray is currently legal to carry in Ohio for self-defense purposes. Ohio has a rather liberal view on pepper spray. There are no restrictions on the sale, size, possession, or formulation. It can be carried concealed or out in the open in what is known as open carry. Pepper spray is not considered a "dangerous weapon" in Ohio. (See Ohio Revised Code § 2923.11 Notes of Decision, Note 3, Sec. 7).

There are several warnings one must consider. First, if pepper spray is not used for self-defense purposes, then it is considered a use of force. Use of pepper spray must be justified. Second, one must be cautious of any rules and restrictions regarding pepper spray in schools and work places. You should consult your employee handbook and school handbooks for further details. Additionally, local restrictions may exist in your geographic location. You should consult local law enforcement or an attorney regarding restrictions in your area. In sum, before you purchase pepper spray or any other tool utilized for self-defense, it is vital that you first take steps to understand your rights and the legal limitations associated with the possession and use of such a weapon.

Stun Guns

Stun guns are another currently-available option. Stun guns are small handheld devices that emit a wire that administers an electrical shock once it contacts the skin. The current is strong enough to disable the threat posed by a person without inflicting extreme damage to the body in most instances. Stun guns are legal to carry in Ohio for self-defense purposes. Ohio has a liberal view on stun guns, as well. They can be carried concealed or "open carry." They are not considered a "firearm," so no concealed weapons permit is required. However, stun guns could potentially be considered a "deadly weapon" depending on the circumstances. (See Ohio Revised Code § 2923.11).

Similar to pepper spray, if stun guns are not used for self-defense purposes, they can be considered a use of force. The use of a stun gun requires justification. Additionally, if used in the commission of a crime, the perpetrator may face higher offense levels, which translates into the potential for greater penalties. Stun guns are not permitted on planes, federal buildings, or state buildings. They also are typically not permitted in work places or schools. You should consult your employee handbook and school handbooks for further details. It is a crime to carry a deadly weapon on school property and only law enforcement is exempt from this restriction. (See Ohio Revised Code § 2923.122). Local restrictions may also add further limits their use, so be sure to contact your local law enforcement agency or an attorney for clarification regarding regulations for your specific geographic location.

Overall, there are alternative options available for protecting and defending yourself and your family outside of carrying a concealed firearm. Ohio law provides great flexibility when choosing between pepper spray and stun gun options. However, one must be aware of the legal ramifications when carrying these devices.

Be sure to educate yourself on how to properly and safely use the device so that you can provide the safest and most effective means of defense for yourself and your loved ones. It is important to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations that pertain to any self-defense weapon you may choose to utilize. The laws will be different amongst the various jurisdictions and change over time.

If you have questions regarding self-defense in Ohio, please call the criminal defense lawyers at our firm in Cleveland, Ohio for a free initial consultation . Our experienced attorneys are prepared to assist you with issues pertaining to self-defense and weapons-related offenses and questions.