Attorney at Law Magazine® recently featured a piece by Attorney Eric Long on rectifying a self-defense trial strategy with Ohio's somewhat controversial "Castle Doctrine." In it, Attorney Long concludes that when both must be parsed, careful instructions should be provided to the jury-- and possible rewording of the statute should be considered by the courts.
What Is The "Castle Doctrine?"
The state of Ohio has very specific specifications for when self-defense can be argued in cases involving a violent incident. A self-defense assertion can only viably be put forth if it can be proven that a defendant:
- Was not at fault for creating a violent situation
- Truly believed they would be harmed if they did not act
- Could not otherwise escape the violent situation
Only in one circumstance is the third requirement dropped: when the Castle Doctrine applies. R.C. §2901.09 basically states that when a defendant is already in their residence (or vehicle), they have "retreated to the wall," and can elect to use significant or deadly force to defend themselves.
Complications & Possible Solutions
In the article, Attorney Long confronts some of the complications inherent to the Castle Doctrine. First of all, what if both combatants have a legal right to be in a residence (such as spouses or roommates)? Courts have dealt with this dilemma a number of times by determining that, once an occupant commits a crime against a co-occupant, that offending occupant loses their right to be present in the residence, giving them "intruder" status and allowing the Castle Doctrine to be applied.
Attorney Long also writes that he believes that the word "escape" should be reconsidered in the self-defense law to avoid confusion when the Castle Doctrine applies. In prior cases (such as State v. Huff, 2007-Ohio-3360), this "escape" language has clashed with the protections under the Castle Doctrine and continued to be presented as relevant to jurors in cases where the defendant should be protected against any escape requirements.
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