The following is a video transcript.
You hear a noise and look out your window to see a hooded figure at your car, getting ready to break your driver’s side window. Under Ohio law, what are you—and aren’t you—allowed to do in this situation?
No discussion about property defense would be complete without first establishing that the law in Ohio is clear that deadly force can never be used to protect property. It doesn’t matter the value of the item—whether it’s a car or a wallet, or a million dollars in cash. This rule extends to your property on your property as well. It makes no difference that the car is at your home versus at the mall parking lot.
In our example, the hooded individual is about to break the car window and either steal the vehicle or take items from it (most likely). You may go outside and stop the person or make noise to scare them off—and I don’t mean firing a shot from your firearm. There is no rule against using basic physical force to prevent the theft and/or damage to your property, but you cannot use deadly force against the person. If you want to confront them, you may do so, but please consider calling the police and assessing the threat level first.
But what about the Castle Doctrine? Ohio’s Castle Doctrine, which allows for the use of deadly force without a duty to retreat in our home and vehicle, generally only covers the house itself and the attached portions of the residence, and it does not extend to what we call the “curtilage,” like driveways and detached garages. Even if the vehicle was in an attached garage, it’s still a property crime at this point, barring some change in circumstances entailing an imminent threat to the homeowner. It also only applies if we are actually in the vehicle, which we are not in this scenario.
As always, for more information about your legal rights to protect property on your property, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney. I’d be happy to talk to you.