A Man’s Girlfriend’s Car is His Castle. Or Not.

Ohio’s castle doctrine law justifies defending yourself without retreating in your home or car. Twenty-nine-year-old Woodrow Edwards III was in his girlfriend’s car when a man he didn’t know lifted the door handle and tried to enter. Edwards then lifted the .40-caliber handgun he was legally carrying. As a result, he was convicted of aggravated menacing. Though only fined $100 and ordered to stay away from the other man, he’s appealing his conviction based on a novel (at least for Ohio) interpretation of the state’s castle doctrine law . . .

The case will be the first of its kind in Ohio because Edwards argues the castle doctrine should extend to his girlfriend’s car.

“The judge fully welcomed the appeal,” Brad Fox, Edwards’ attorney, said. “She said there’s no case law on it now.”

The key point in this case is, does that right extend to a person in the car of someone other than a relative.

The original incident had an unusual twist to it. As it turns out, Eric Taylor, the handle jiggler, is the ex-boyfriend of Edwards’ girlfriend. Why Taylor took it upon himself to manipulate the door handle of his ex-girlfriend’s car isn’t clear. How the cops got involved is also not clear, but I suspect a man-card violation.

I would much rather not fire a weapon should I ever feel threatened with serious injury or death if making the person I think is a bad guy know I have the means to protect myself is enough. Who needs that on their conscience? Though I doubt all the ‘facts’ in this case as reported, from what I can glean it looks like this was a misunderstanding that could have ended tragically – but didn’t. Why punish someone for showing restraint?

Castle doctrine laws provide a very high wall of protection for citizens exercising the right to self defense in places they have a legal right to be. The prosecutor’s argument against application of castle doctrine protection in this case rests on Edwards’ relationship with the car’s owner. Because the car belongs to the girlfriend and is not his own or a family member’s, Ohio’s castle doctrine doesn’t apply – at least in this prosecutor’s mind. This is the thought process of someone looking for a way to deprive a citizen of their liberty.

That the prosecutor went to these lengths and the judge went along with it reminds me why we need castle doctrine laws in the first place.

As to the specific claim that the girlfriend’s car is a “castle” from which there is no duty to retreat, the spirit of the law is that anywhere one is legally permitted to be ought not carry with it a duty to retreat. No situation where one is in fear of serious bodily harm or death should require you to turn your back on your attacker.