Limitations On Your Right To Self-Defense In Ohio. Part III: The First Aggressor Rule

Limitations On Your Right To Self-Defense In Ohio.  Part III: The First Aggressor Rule

By James D. Owen, Columbus Criminal Defense Attorney

A person who starts an altercation may not thereafter lawfully use force to defend himself during the altercation he started.  This so-called “not-at-fault” rule means that an accused who claims to have acted in self-defense must not have been the first aggressor in the incident.  See State v. Melchior, 56 Ohio St. 2d 12 (1978).  In a self-defense case, a question of fact often arises about who was the first aggressor in the incident.  This is question often presented to the jury.  In Ohio, a defendant is entitled to introduce evidence of the alleged victim’s character to establish that the alleged victim was in fact the first aggressor. See Rule 404(A)(2) of the Ohio Rules of Evidence.  In addition, if the accused knew that the alleged victim had a reputation for violent behavior, or knew of specific instances of prior violent conduct, he may introduce evidence of those prior specific instances to show that the accused believed he was acting reasonably when he acted in self-defense.  See State v. Marsh, 71 Ohio App. 3d 64, 70 (11th Dist. 1990).

A criminal defense attorney using self-defense to defend his client against a murder,  attempted murder, felonious assault, aggravated assault, or assault charge needs to understand how to use the Ohio Rules of Evidence to introduce otherwise inadmissible hearsay evidence to show why his client reasonably believed he was in imminent danger when he used force in self-defense.  This will dramatically increase the chances of a not guilty jury verdict.

If you have been charged in Columbus or central Ohio with a crime in which you acted in self-defense, it is important for you to immediately contact an experienced Columbus criminal defense attorney.  If you would like to discuss any aspect of Ohio criminal law, please call 614 454 5410 to schedule a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable Columbus criminal defense lawyer.

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