In late May, a man approached police officers on the street in Cleveland and told them his passenger had been shot. Though police are still investigating, it appears that the driver—who sought out and self-reported to the police—shot the passenger himself, then drove the vehicle to a secondary location where officers were investigating a separate accident.
The shooter claimed that he’d shot his passenger in self-defense. Thanks to a recent change in Ohio law, prosecutors will have to work a bit harder if they want to convict him.
Self-Defense Law Shifts Burden to Ohio Prosecutors
Ohio law has always allowed a person to act in self-defense or defense of another in certain circumstances. However, until recently, self-defense and defense of others were affirmative defenses—defenses that the accused was required to prove in court.
Pursuant to House Bill 228 which took effect in late March, Ohio joins the rest of the country in shifting the burden of proof in self-defense cases to the prosecution.
While the new law fell short of making Ohio a true “Stand Your Ground” State, there are important distinctions that remove previous legal barriers that stood in the way of persons acting in self-defense.
Under the new law, if evidence is presented that tends to support that the accused person used the force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, then the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense, defense or another, or defense of that person’s residence.
Unchanged by the recent act, but still important, is that a person is presumed to have acted in self-defense or defense of another when using defensive force if the person against whom the defensive force is used unlawfully, and without privilege to do so, entered or is entering the residence or vehicle occupied by the person using the defensive force. Of course, this presumption does not apply if the person against whom the force is used has a right to be in the residence or vehicle.
In short, a criminal defendant asserting self-defense or defense of others defense now has less to prove in an Ohio courtroom, and the prosecution has a higher burden in such cases.
The Impact of The New Self-Defense Law
The impact of the law has already played out in at least one case. Just days before the new law took effect, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor dismissed charges against Joshua Walker. Walker was facing murder charges in connection with a 2017 shooting outside a Cleveland bar, though he maintained that the shooting was in self-defense. Prosecutor Michael O’Malley apparently determined that video footage of the shooting would have created a presumption of self-defense in Walker’s favor.
Cleveland.com reported that the video showed the man who was shot putting on a pair of gloves and approaching Walker at the bar. When Walker turned to face him, the other man punched him in the face, and continued to punch him as the pair “wrestled their way out the bar’s front door.”
Talk to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney about Self Defense Law
If you’ve been charged with a crime or believe you are about to be charged with a crime after acting in self-defense or defense of others, it is important to speak with an experienced local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Although Ohio self-defense law has changed, successfully asserting the defense still requires strategy and presentation of the right evidence.
Any steps you take on your own, from speaking with police without an attorney present to appearing in court alone, could jeopardize your defense.
Start protecting yourself and your rights now, by calling 440-946-7656 to schedule a free consultation.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation