Under what circumstances can I use deadly force to defend my property? Ohio law does not allow the use of deadly force to defend property under any circumstances. One can use basic force to defend one’s possessions, but not deadly force.
Now, I am speaking in the context of basic thefts here. For instance, someone stealing your bike from the bike rack. You cannot pull out your firearm and use deadly force to stop the taking of your possessions absent some other serious threat to your person that might arise.
Robbery and aggravated robbery situations are a different story. Whereas theft is categorized as the taking or depriving another of their property without consent, robbery and aggravated robbery require the added element of some use or threatened use of force during the commission of the theft. In these situations and more likely in the aggravated robbery context, deadly force might be justified as long as no duty to retreat is violated.
What about a person’s home or car? Well, now we are talking about Castle Doctrine scenarios where you no longer have a duty to retreat and are presumed to have acted reasonably in using deadly force in these locations. If someone has broken into your home or otherwise entered your home without authorization, you may use deadly force against them. Now remember, this is not a “get out of jail free” card in all situations. The presumption can be overcome, and you can still be held to be criminally liable. For example, you can’t shoot the person running out the door, as there is no longer any perceived threat, and you are essentially using deadly force against the guy who is stealing your TV.
With vehicles, if you are in your vehicle or the vehicle of an immediate family member and someone enters the vehicle without your permission, you may defend yourself by any means necessary including deadly force, without a duty to retreat. In both the home and the car scenarios, you are not having to rely on the old affirmative defense of self-defense and are presumed to have acted reasonably.
Let’s quickly distinguish burglars in your home with simple trespassers to your property, as this is an important distinction. Now, you are absolutely allowed to defend your property, with basic force. It is your right to keep off your land, out of your yard, out of your garage, etc. those you have not invited, so exercise your First Amendment right to say to them whatever you want. But remember, those threats of deadly force to keep trespassers off your property are generally not backed up by Ohio self-defense law, and you will likely find yourself in very serious trouble if you use deadly force against a trespasser.
Finally, don’t set up traps, or otherwise booby trap your property to keep out trespassers. These forms of land protection are not allowed, and can lead to serious criminal charges and civil liability if someone was to be injured or killed as a result.
As always, feel free to call U.S. LawShield anytime and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney to discuss these or any other topics you might have, and I’d be happy to discuss them with you.