The truth is that the title of this blog is completely misleading for the following reason. Ohio law states that a lawful owner of a residence or a car who is occupying that car has NO duty to retreat before using force in self-defense or defense of another. So, truthfully, the king of the castle does not have to retreat (but it makes for a good title).

This law is riddled with controversy. There are plenty of questions to ask. For starters: How far does the right to defend one’s castle (or mobile castle for that matter) extend? And when does the right apply? If, for instance, I see someone actively breaking into my house, can I automatically shoot them and get away with it? The law states that you have to be occupying, but why?

If we understand the background to the doctrine, I think we will answer most of the questions. The underlying belief behind the law is that one’s property should be a safe place for him or herself. If there is fear of your safety, the law is not going to force you to leave your safe place because, after all, if you are forced to leave your house or car, where are you safe? But, the key is that you have to fear imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. This is why the law requires you to be occupying the home in order to invoke the right. The right was not put in place to protect your belongings, rather it exists to protect yourself.

This understanding also clarifies when the doctrine would apply. If you see someone breaking into your house and he is not stopping to do so even though you have announced yourself, you will be able to deter him. The use of deadly force may be questionable if there is no reasonable belief that you are in imminent danger of such.

Most states have a castle doctrine or a variation of it, but as Ohioans, we have an advantage. The Ohio code provides for the same protection to be applied to a person’s vehicle or the vehicle of that person’s immediate family member. This is an advantage that not every state has. So, we hope that you never have to face a situation where the castle doctrine is in play, but if you do, know that you can stand your ground, but be careful how you react because it is still a decision that you will have to live with.