Thursday, April 17, 2008
Aaron Marshall Plain Dealer Bureau
Columbus- Deadly force could be used against people who unlawfully enter the homes and cars of Ohio citizens under legislation passed unanimously by the Ohio Senate Wednesday.
The so-called "Castle Doctrine" bill was one of several the Senate passed before adjourning for the week. Other bills would allow consumers to place freezes on their credit reports, give county sheriffs the ability to enforce deportation orders against illegal immigrants and establish a Department of Veteran Services.
Sen. Steve Buehrer, a suburban Toledo Republican, traced the origin of the Castle Doctrine back hundreds of years, calling it "common sense that has come down to us from the Middle Ages - people have a right to defend themselves in their own homes." The bill now moves to the Ohio House.
Under current Ohio law, if you shoot an intruder dead in your home, you have to prove self-defense by showing you were in imminent danger and the only way to escape harm was through force.
While Ohio case law has established that residents sometimes use deadly force without retreating, Buehrer said: "We are one anti-gun judge and one anti-gun prosecutor away from seeing those rights disappear."
The bill also bars criminals from suing in civil court for injuries suffered in the act of committing crimes.
By a 29-2 vote, the Senate passed the legislation that would charge consumers $5 apiece for a freeze or thaw of their credit report. Victims of identity theft could have their credit reports frozen at no charge under the legislation.
Rejected on a party-line vote was an amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Ray Miller, a Columbus Democrat, that would have barred businesses from discriminating against applicants on the basis of poor credit scores when making hires. One of two no votes on the legislation was cast by Sen. Shirley Smith, a Cleveland Democrat, who said she couldn't support the bill without Miller's amendment.
"This bill sort of promotes divisions between classes," Smith said.
The legislation, which was changed in committee after passing the House, is expected to be OK'd again by the Ohio House and sent soon to Gov. Ted Strickland.
Also acted on by the Senate was legislation allowing county sheriffs to assist federal immigration officials in their efforts to deport illegal immigrants. The legislation, which passed unanimously, stems from a request by Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, who has found his hands legally tied when he sought to help enforce federal immigration laws in his county. It now heads to the Ohio House.
Also passed unanimously by the Senate was a bill that establishes a Cabinet-level state Department of Veterans Services. The idea is to bring the state's efforts to aid veterans under one roof, providing greater accountability, according to supporters. It also now moves to the Ohio House.