The crime of assault is a serious offense, and can carry harsh consequences. A single punch, even if not intended to inflict serious harm, can result in the filing of a felony level charge. Assault charges can even be filed when no actual harm occurs, as Ohio laws criminalize attempts to cause physical harm. A person facing an assault charge will need proper representation from an attorney with knowledge and experience in dealing with Ohio’s various assault charges and their defenses.
Types of Assault Charges under the Ohio Revised Code
- Assault (or “simple” assault) (§2903.13) – knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical harm, or, recklessly causing serious physical harm; a first-degree misdemeanor punishable up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine
- Negligent Assault (§2903.14) – negligently, by means or a deadly weapon or dangerous ordinance, causing physical harm to another; a third-degree misdemeanor punishable up to 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine
- Felonious Assault (§2903.11) – knowingly cause serious physical harm to another, or, knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to another by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordinance; a second-degree felony punishable up to 8 years in prison and a $20,000.00 fine
- Aggravated Assault (§2903.12) – a felonious assault committed under a sudden fit or rage that was brought about by serious provocation from the victim; a fourth-degree felony punishable up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000.00 fine
- Vehicular Assault (§2903.08(A)(2) and (3)) – causing serious physical to another while operating a motor vehicle recklessly; ranges from a first-degree misdemeanor up to a third-degree felony, including the possibility of mandatory jail, prison, and license suspension
- Aggravated Vehicular Assault (§2903.08(A)(1)) – causing serious physical harm to another while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs; ranges from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony, including mandatory prison and license suspension
Threatening behavior, even when no actual attempt to cause physical harm is involved, can also lead to criminal charges. The electronic nature of the world we live in and the endless forms of social media platforms can complicate matters further. Communications, whether electronic or in-person, that are viewed by the recipient as conveying threats of harm can lead to charges such as:
- Menacing (§2903.22) – knowingly causing another to believe you will cause physical harm to their person or property; a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable up to 30 days in jail and a $250.00 fine
- Aggravated Menacing (§2903.21) – knowingly causing another to believe you will cause serious physical harm to their person or property; a first-degree misdemeanor punishable up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine
- Menacing by Stalking (§2903.211) – engaging in a pattern of conduct that causes another to believe you will cause physical harm to their person, property, or family; ranges from a first-degree misdemeanor up to a felony of the fourth-degree
Self-Defense and Ohio’s New “Stand Your Ground” Law
Signed into law on January 4, 2021 and effective April 4, 2021, Ohio’s Senate Bill 175 eliminates the duty to retreat prior to using deadly force in self-defense. In doing so, Ohio effectively became a “Stand Your Ground” state.
What Does SB 175 Change?
SB 175 expands the use of deadly force as previously outlined in Ohio laws known as the Castle Doctrine. Under the Castle Doctrine, the use of deadly force in self-defense was justified only when:
- The individual was not the initial aggressor;
- There was a reasonable belief of imminent danger of death or great bodily harm; and
- The individual did not violate a duty to retreat (i.e., the individual was in their home or vehicle).
If an individual was not in their home or vehicle, the law required that the person use any reasonable means of retreat available to them prior to using deadly force. Under SB 175, an individual who uses deadly force no longer has a duty to retreat as long as they are in a place where they have a legal right to be (i.e., not trespassing).
What Stays the Same under SB 175?
While SB 175 eliminates the duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense, the other elements described above remain in effect. The person using deadly force must not be responsible for creating the situation necessitating force (i.e., the “aggressor”), and they must have a reasonable belief that the other person intends to cause them death or great bodily harm. The use of deadly force will not be justified against an aggressor using non-deadly force.
No changes were made to the laws surrounding use of non-deadly force. Ohio has never recognized a duty to retreat before using non-lethal means of force to repel an imminent attack by someone using unlawful force against them.
Who Must Prove Self-Defense?
Prior to 2019, self-defense was referred to as an “affirmative defense.” Meaning, the defendant was required to present evidence that satisfied the elements of self-defense before a judge or jury could be allowed to make such findings. Under House Bill 228 (effective March 2019), Ohio laws shifted the burden of proof to the prosecution. Now, in addition to proving the charges beyond all reasonable doubt, the prosecution is also required to prove that self-defense was not justified. SB 175 does not change or amend this requirement, and the burden of proof remains the prosecution’s to bear.
If you are facing an assault related charge, you will need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who is familiar with Ohio’s assault laws and their available defenses. Call the attorney’s at Dworken & Bernstein to schedule your free consultation now.