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At Funkhouser Law, we know that everyone accused of being responsible for the death of another has the presumption of innocence. As such, we work hard to accomplish the most favorable outcome for each of our clients. If you have been accused of any type of homicide, please call Funkhouser Law for a free consultation with an experienced, peer-rated lawyer.

Ohio Homicide Charges Distinguished:

  1. Aggravated Murder ORC § 2903.01
  • Acting with purpose and prior calculation and design,
  • Resulting in the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.

Under Ohio Law, a conviction of aggravated murder may carry with it a sentence of the death penalty if over the age of 18 or life imprisonment as well as a penalty of up to $25,000. This type of murder is often referred to as first degree murder in other states, but Ohio law is unique in that “prior calculation and design” requires more time than the standard of many other states, which is “willful and premeditated with malice aforethought,” which can take place minutes before the commission of the crime.

  1. Murder ORC § 2903.02
  • Purposefully, or
  • As a result of committing or attempting to commit an offense of violence that is a first or second degree felony
  • Resulting in the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.

This classification of murder is similar to what is referred to in many states as second degree murder, but does not include the common language “with malice aforethought.” A person guilty of murder in Ohio can be imprisoned for a period of 15 years to life.

  1. Voluntary Manslaughter ORC § 2903.03

Often referred to as a crime of passion murder, voluntary manslaughter is defined as an intentional killing where there is no prior intent to kill. This type of killing would be brought on by a sudden fit of passion or rage such as discovering spousal infidelity. In some states, this crime is referred to as third degree murder. As a felony of the first degree, voluntary manslaughter carries with it a penalty of 3-10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.

  1. Involuntary Manslaughter ORC § 2903.04

Unlike any of the other categories of killing, this type of killing is not intentional, but stems from an intentional or negligent act leading to death. A common type of involuntary manslaughter stems from a death caused by drunk driving. This classification of killing can be a first-degree felony and carry with it a penalty of 3-10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.

  1. Reckless Homicide ORC § 2903.041
  • Recklessly
  • Causing the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.

Reckless homicide is a felony of the third degree and consists of heedless indifference to the consequences of his actions. As a felony of the third degree, reckless homicide carries with it a penalty of 1-5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. An example of a reckless homicide is killing another while playing Russian roulette.

  1. Negligent Homicide ORC § 2903.05
  • Negligently,

  • By means of a deadly weapon or ordinance,

  • Causing the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.

The word negligent is a legal term, which means a person has operated without the amount of care that a reasonable person would use under same or similar circumstances. This classification of homicide is a misdemeanor of the first degree and therefore carries with it a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and fines no more than $1,000.

Felony Murder rule

In common law tradition, if a person were involved in the commission of a felony and a person died during the commission of that crime, that person would be guilty of murder. An example of this is if a bank teller had a heart attack during a bank robbery, the getaway driver would be guilty of murder.

This common-law rule is largely considered outdated and has been effectively abolished through the enactment of Ohio’s involuntary manslaughter statute, which requires intent to kill unlike in other states, which require only intent for the underlying felony. However, if two persons are committing a felony offense such as burglary and the homeowner shoots and kills one of the two burglars, Ohio law will allow the surviving burglar to be charged with Felony Murder.

Potential Defenses

Castle Doctrine/ “Stand Your Ground”

“Stand your ground” is a doctrine implying that a person can use deadly force if in fear for their lives, but in Ohio, a person typically has a responsibility to retreat if they can. However, the Ohio “castle doctrine” says that person may use deadly force and shoot a home intruder. This doctrine also applies in one’s car or in the car of an immediate family member. In all other situations, a person has a duty to retreat before using deadly force to defend their life.

Self Defense

Self -defense in Ohio is an affirmative defense meaning that the burden of proof is on the victim/defendant charged with the crime. Consequently, it is important to have good legal representation to prepare you for trial. Self-defense is a legal defense in which a victim of an attack may use reasonable force to fend off an attack. This requires that the victim not have started the physical fight in the first place. Furthermore, in order to use deadly force to fend off an attack, the victim must be in fear for their life with no other way of escape. An exception exists in the case of battered woman syndrome or the castle doctrine.

Battered Woman Syndrome Defense

Battered woman syndrome, often associated with PTSD, is a legal defense in Ohio of self-defense if a woman kills her spouse in fear of imminent bodily harm. The idea is that a woman who has been repeatedly abused by her spouse may be unable to leave the relationship due to low self-esteem or fear of retribution.

The type of domestic violence leading up to a murder giving rise to a battered woman defense is typically cyclical, meaning the abuser may abuse the woman and plead for forgiveness multiple times causing confusion and mixed emotions. Although this syndrome is not gender specific, it is currently only recognized as a defense for woman.

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