Self-defense: The Physical Battle And The Legal War
Copyright November 2008 and January 2009, John Freeman, Esq.
May not be reproduced, published, or distributed without written permission of the author
You realize that the police cannot protect you 24/7. You understand the purpose of calling 911 is to report a crime scene, not stop a crime in progress.
You are prepared to take responsibility for your personal safety and for those you care for and love. You are a sheep dog, rather than part of the flock.
You believe the Second Amendment means you have a right to protect yourself. You understand that “shall-issue” means what it says.
You were a victim before but will not be again. You think it is better to be judged by twelve than to be carried by six.
Whatever your reason, you are armed with an effective tool. You carry a firearm for personal protection.
You took a basic safety class, passed minimal marksmanship requirements, and even had a lecture from a lawyer or a cop. You have a piece of paper that allows you to legally carry a concealed pistol. Maybe you train regularly and take advanced tactical classes. You subscribe to gun magazines and surf gun-friendly web sites from time-to-time, learning about the latest gear and battle-proven techniques. You are alert. You are confident. You have the determination to live. You will never give up. You are prepared for battle if forced to defend yourself or those you love.
But, are you prepared for the war once the shooting stops?
Are you prepared for the reaction of witnesses? Are you prepared for the verbal barrage you will endure once the police arrive? Are you prepared for the legal ramifications you may confront? Are you prepared for the days, weeks, and even months of scrutiny you will endure? Are you prepared to defend your actions to people that may have no idea how a revolver is different from a semi-automatic? Are you prepared to put your freedom on the line, with a potentially hostile prosecutor, judge, and jury that may not agree you did the “right” thing?
In a perfect world you would not need such preparation any more than you need to carry a firearm. But you understand the imperfections of the world today. That is why you have a firearm. But what have you done to prepare yourself for the legal aftermath of using it?
I have been practicing nothing but criminal law since 1993. I regularly prosecuted state and federal gun crimes in New York and Detroit. Now, I regularly defend persons alleged to have committed them (along with a wide assortment of other crimes). Based on this experience, I offer the following suggestions as you prepare for a war I hope you never endure.
Of course, there are more things to know and remember. But in my experience, if more law-abiding armed citizens had remembered these fundamentals, I would have had less work to do as both a prosecutor and defense lawyer.
• Do not use your firearm unless you absolutely have to. Your firearm is a tool of last resort. “Use” in this context also means “display”, “brandish”, or otherwise let other persons know you are armed. If you can safely avoid a confrontation, do so. Do not use your firearm because you can. Do not use it because you are angry at the jerk that cut you off in traffic. Do not use it to scare someone that may deserve it. Do not use it unless you must!
• Understand the law in your jurisdiction. Know the rules of engagement. Know what constitutes legal self-defense. Know when and where you may lawfully carry. Know how to legally transport your firearm. Do not assume the law and your common-sense mirror each other.
• ALWAYS call 911 if you ever “display”, “brandish”, discharge, or otherwise “use” your firearm. Remain at the scene if it is safe to do so. Do not, however, answer the dispatcher’s detailed questions. Provide just enough information to enable the police to get there and to keep from being mistakenly shot as the perpetrator when they arrive. Less is more.
• Do not assume the police will know how to deal with someone that is trained, namely you. Do not assume they will view you as the victim. Do exactly what they say. Be polite and respectful, even if they are wrong.
• Do not speak with the police under any circumstances. Period. Ever. Everything you say, no matter how helpful it seems to you at the time, can and will be used against you. Even unimportant details may come back to haunt you. Do not explain anything. Be polite and respectful, but do not speak. Resist promises of leniency and immediate release if you talk. Expect to be arrested. If and when it is in your best interest, you will have an opportunity to speak (after consulting with an experienced attorney well-versed in the law of self-defense). Affirmatively assert BOTH your right to remain silent and to have an attorney. These have been your constitutional rights for more than 200 years. Shut up and use them immediately.
Certainly it is essential that you equip yourself physically and tactically for battle. But remember, once the immediate physical threat ceases, you may find yourself fighting a legal war for your freedom. Do not forget to mentally train for this aftermath. Train to win both the physical battle and the legal war.
Copyright November 2008, January 2009, John Freeman, Esquire
May not be reproduced, published, or distributed without written permission of the author.
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This article is provided for legal information only. It does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice is specific information and recommendations tailored to fit an individual’s specific circumstances. This article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the reader and the Law Office of John Freeman