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Self-defense is still allowed despite illegal activity

Being engaged in an illegal activity doesn't negate your right to act in your own self-defense. Being on the losing end of a gun battle doesn't necessarily mean the survivors won't get charged with some form of murder if they started the fight.

Those are the basic lessons provided by legal professionals after the news media questioned why a Cleveland, Ohio, man wasn't charged with homicide after he used deadly force to protect himself during a drug deal that went bad.

The man from Cleveland met with three other Ohio men to buy a pound of marijuana. The deal somehow soured and the Cleveland man found himself on the ground with a gun cocked and pressed to his head. He quickly rolled and grabbed his own gun -- which he had a legal permit to carry -- and fired at other man with a gun. The other man's two accomplices fled as their companion fell to the ground and died.

The gun the dead man dropped turned out to be unloaded, a fact that the Cleveland man couldn't have known when he acted in his own defense. Ohio law gives individuals the right to use deadly force when they have a reasonable belief that they are about to be seriously injured or killed.

On the other hand, the dead man's two accomplices were charged with felony murder despite the fact that they didn't raise a hand against their associate. Under the law, if you are engaged in the commission of a violent criminal act that's a felony (in this case, aggravated robbery), and your actions lead to the death of another person, that makes you guilty of that person's death.

While these may seem like quirks in the law, they really aren't -- and the situation isn't particularly that unusual in one form or another.

The important factor is that there's evidence to support the Cleveland man's claim that he acted in self-defense and the two accomplices miscalculated the potential consequences of their crime -- but that doesn't negate their responsibility for any of those consequences.

Situations like these also show why the advice of a defense attorney can be so helpful. A defense attorney may help you escape more serious charges or keep you from unnecessarily incriminating yourself. If you are in any kind of legal trouble, seek assistance immediately.

Source:, "Ohio law allowed self-defense claim in deadly Pepper Pike drug deal," Cory Shaffer,, June 22, 2017

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