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Expanded 'Stand Your Ground' law taking effect April 6 places burden on state to disprove self-defense

Law could apply retroactively to open cases
Stand Your Ground
Posted at 4:51 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 18:30:00-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's expanded "Stand Your Ground" law goes into effect on April 6.

"We used to hear that it was the castle doctrine. So, it just had to be from your home and then your car. Now there is no limit," said Cleveland criminal defense attorney Ian Friedman. "It can be anywhere where you may be approached, anywhere where you may feel that fear that you or someone else is facing great bodily harm or death."

Originally, Gov. Mike DeWine threatened to veto the bill before the end of the previous legislative session.

Despite signing the bill into law, DeWine chastised the Republican-led legislature for parts of the new gun law saying, "the legislature did not include in this bill the essential provisions that I proposed to make it harder for dangerous criminals to illegally possess and use guns."

Ultimately, the governor said he signed the bill because "I have always believed that it is vital that law-abiding citizens have the right to legally protect themselves when confronted with a life-threatening situation."

The new law not only expands where the castle doctrine applies, it also changes the way Stand Your Ground cases are handled in court. Previously, the defense had to prove someone was acting in self-defense. Now, it's up to the state to prove that it wasn't.

That is a change that state Attorney General Dave Yost chastised during a Feb. 12 press conference.

"The recent change by the General Assembly shifts that burden and now requires the state to prove that self-defense does not apply," he said earlier this year. Yost made the statement after a grand jury declined to charge Cleveland Police Officer Jose Garcia in the April 2020 shooting death of Desmond Franklin. Garcia, who was off duty at the time, claimed he acted out of self-defense.

"And at trial we have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not self-defense," Yost said about the law change. "As prosecutors warned the General Assembly at that time, it is often impossible to prove a negative."

Stand Your Ground issues are most associated with guns, but Friedman said it can apply to other violent actions in self-defense.

But for gun owners, changes in laws mean more vigilant education.

"I think it's important to have awareness when you're carrying a firearm or want to carry a firearm or just have a firearm. It's all-important," said rob Euerle. He owns the Parma Armory and holds concealed carry classes there.

"We didn't know that six months ago," he said about the new law coming into effect. "We didn't know if that was going to take effect, when it would take effect, how it would take effect, what it really means. So, I think staying up on the attorney general's website is really priority."

The expanded law could impact cases.

"You're going to see now greater consideration by their legal counsel as to whether or not this falls under the new law," Friedman said. He also said, for cases pending in the court system, the new law could be applied retroactively.