By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
From time to time, we have suggested that defensive shooters obtain the advice of a good attorney. Now, mind you, I am not talking about just any attorney, but rather one who specializes in criminal-defense work, ideally in the same jurisdiction. A criminal-defense attorney can not only explain the state’s deadly force statutes, but also the case law that pertains to it.
Case law refers to those court cases that effect how the state law is defined and accepted. The lawyer can also advise the citizen how to respond to questioning by police investigators. If the police take a citizen into custody following a defensive shooting, an attorney may well be the best friend that citizen can ever have.
Following a defensive shooting, the armed citizen will nearly always be taken into custody. They may be simply escorted to the station for questioning. Or, they may be handcuffed and placed in jail. Either way, the stress is huge and that is really not a good time to start trying to find an attorney for representation and advice.
As honest citizens, we want to cooperate with any police investigation. However, by electing to make a statement without legal representation, we may use words, phrases or explanations that won’t sound so good when they are read back to a jury. After all, there is a lot of stress involved in a violent confrontation. We may be scared. We may be mad. And we are probably not thinking straight at this point.
My personal decision is to tell the police very little. “That man tried to shoot me. I shot him and his gun is lying over there. I’ll be happy to give you a full statement, but I would like to have my attorney present when I do that.” Already having the name and number of an attorney at hand can expedite the situation and may prevent me from having to spend the night, or nights, in a jail cell.
The next important thing, apart from having an attorney, is to follow legal instructions before, after and during the entire episode. If your lawyer says “Don’t talk,” then don’t talk, just use the phone as soon as you can and get your attorney by your side. Good counsel will start clearing the way for your release before you have even completely calmed down from the traumatic event.
There are also a number of organizations that offer legal representation to their members. A defensive shooter might be well advised to check these out, compare what they offer and select the one that best suits individual needs.
Being the victim of a violent attack is traumatic and stressful. But you don’t have to face it alone. Getting good legal advice and representation is just as important as training to defend yourself. Prior planning is the key.
Thanks to Shooting Illustrated for this post.