Hello, everyone. It’s Wilkes Ellsworth, your Ohio Independent Program Attorney. Let’s talk about what you do when an unruly party guest gets out of hand. Of course, you can kick them out, but what if they won’t leave? What about someone who shows up on your property uninvited? These people are trespassers, and Ohio law protects your property rights by allowing you to decide who is and is not allowed on your property. Let’s discuss who might become a trespasser, and what you can legally do to eject them.
What is a trespasser?
So, let’s define trespasser. Ohio law defines a general trespasser as a person who enters someone’s property for their own purposes without being authorized, invited, or induced to do so by the landowner, lease holder, renter, occupant, or other person who has control over the property. Uninvited guests can range from someone completely innocent like a neighborhood kid retrieving a ball from your yard or someone cutting across your property, to someone a bit more sinister, like someone sneaking around your land at night or an unknown vehicle pulling up your driveway. Even when the situation looks sinister, so long as the person is not committing or attempting to commit any offense outside of their simple trespass, you may still only use force to remove them.
Words first, force last
In Ohio, you are restricted to verbal commands and gestures, up to and including a final use of basic physical force to eject the trespasser. Keep in mind that the force you use against the trespasser must be that which an ordinary and prudent man or woman would consider reasonable and necessary. You may think the drawing or pointing of your firearm may be a reasonable use of force or may cause the person to finally heed your commands and leave but evaluate your situation carefully. Pointing your gun at a high schooler taking a shortcut through your property, or at the electric company’s meter reader may ultimately get you into legal hot water, to put it mildly. Once you point or pull the trigger, even as a warning shot, you have crossed the line into threatening and/or using deadly force, and may be arrested, charged, and convicted for a number of serious crimes.
reasonable force only
We can extend the trespasser definition to include even previously invited guests who are subsequently asked to leave the property by the landowner, but refuse. Once you give the unruly person, even a friend or extended family member for that matter, notice that they are no longer welcome, and they refuse to leave, that person becomes a trespasser. You may then use force, but not deadly force to remove the individual from your property. On most occasions, this use of force will take the form of physically escorting or removing the individual. I cannot emphasize enough that Ohio law does not allow for the use of deadly force or even the threat of deadly force to coerce a trespasser to exit the property, absent threat of force to you, which would justify that response.
Castle Doctrine in Action
You might be asking, “So you’re telling me, I can’t shoot someone breaking into my house because they are just a trespasser?” That is not the case at all. Once that is happening, the person is no longer a mere trespasser, and you have the protections of the castle doctrine, and all other laws related to deadly force self-defense at your disposal. You are no longer protecting just your property; you are now protecting yourself and your family. These situations can change rapidly, and a mere trespasser can quickly become a more dangerous threat, so it’s crucial you understand the laws in Ohio.
As always, if you have any questions about this issue, or any other, contact U.S. LawShield, and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.