Get Set for Your Next Fishing Trip with JH Custom Rods 

Summer is in high gear and as you look to head out on your next fishing trip you might need a new fishing rod. One place you should consider is our latest member perk JH Custom Rods.  Watch our video to find out more about JH Custom Rods and see more highlights from the Houston Boat Show 

Get ready for your next fishing trip and access your Member Perks to support other 2A businesses like JH Custom Rods.

Understanding the Law: Culpable Mental States

Culpable mental states are one of the most important parts of the functioning of criminal law. Though this topic digs into some complex legal theory and wordy definitions, understanding culpable mental states is essential to understanding criminal law as a whole.

Imagine a man is playing with his kids in his backyard at a family BBQ. He is carrying his pistol holstered at his belt. While he is running around with the kids he stumbles, his pistol is jostled loose from its holster, and it falls towards the ground. Instinctively, he reaches out to grab the falling gun.   His finger loops through the trigger well and he shoots his brother-in-law on the other side of the BBQ lawn. The brother-in-law is transported to the hospital in stable condition.

Now imagine a different man. This man is also at a family BBQ when he gets into a verbal altercation with his brother-in-law. After a long heated argument, he draws his pistol from his belt holster, says to his brother-in-law “I’ll kill you!”, aims and shoots him. The brother-in-law is transported to the hospital in stable condition.

Both men sent someone to the hospital with a gunshot wound. But should both of these men be charged with the same crime and face the same punishment? I think most of us would agree that the answer is no—one of these men deserves far greater repercussions. But how does the law make the distinction?

Criminal acts have two distinct parts: actus reus (the “guilty act”) and mens rea (the “guilty mind”). Both men fired a shot that struck a human. Therefore, their actus reus is the same. But the mens rea, the mental state of each man, was very different.

The model penal code lays out culpable mental states for criminal acts. Most common in criminal offenses are the mens rea of intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly. The most culpable mental state is acting intentionally (also called purposefully):

A person acts intentionally if he acts with the intent that his action causes a certain result. In other words, he undertakes his action either intending for, or hoping that, a certain result will follow. For example: I aim my pistol and pull the trigger hoping that I shoot a specific individual.

Next is a mental state we call “knowingly.” A person acts knowingly if he is aware that his conduct will result in certain consequences. In other words, a person acts knowingly if he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause a specific result. For example: I fire my pistol into a crowd of people, knowing that the result will almost certainly be that a person is shot.

Farther down on the culpability scale is something known as recklessness.  A person acts recklessly if he is aware of a substantial risk that a certain result will occur as a result of his actions, but he disregards that risk and undertakes the actions anyway. For example: I fire shots up into the air to celebrate the fourth of July, and a person is injured by a falling bullet.

The more purposeful and intentional a person’s conduct, the more harshly the law will punish them. This makes sense: we want to impose greater punishment on someone who plans and carries out a murder plot than we do someone who kills a bystander as a result of target shooting when he knows his backstop is deficient.

You might be thinking, none of these mental states seem to fit the man who accidentally dropped his gun, and pulled the trigger while he was trying to catch it. That’s because his mental state falls closer to something we call negligence. Negligence is simply failing to act with the ordinary standard of care that a reasonable person would implement. In its more extreme form, it is actions that grossly deviate from that ordinary standard of care. In most states this is called gross negligence or criminal negligence, and can result in criminal charges.

Though you might not see culpable mental states on the front page of the newspaper, these concepts are foundational to criminal law. Mental states are half the criminal equation, and understanding them will put you leaps and bounds above the rest.  For questions about these issues or any others, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your independent program attorney.

How Texas LawShield Protected Me from my Neighbor

One Texas LawShield member found out what one of his neighbors would do after a neighborhood dispute turned into a violent road rage incident. Jerry N. was driving out of his neighborhood when a neighbor suddenly pulled in front of him and got out of his truck threatening to kill him. Watch our video to find out what happened next and how Texas LawShield was able to help Jerry through the legal aftermath.  

Self-defense incidents occur every day. Most of the time, you’ll have to defend yourself against people you know. Will you be prepared like Jerry? Become a member of U.S. and Texas LawShield, the legal defense for self-defense today.

5 Tips to Navigating the Attorney Answered Emergency Hotline

One of the best benefits of being a U.S. LawShield member is the 24/7 attorney-answered emergency hotline. This number is located in red type on the back of your membership card. The number isn’t answered by a computer, a menu system, service or a call center. The first voice you hear will be an independent program attorney like myself. As one of the attorneys who regularly answers this hotline, I want to give you some tips and tricks to make this phone call as easy as possible.

One of the best benefits of being a U.S. LawShield member is the 24/7 attorney-answered emergency hotline. This number is located in red type on the back of your membership card. The number isn’t answered by a computer, a menu system, service or a call center. The first voice you hear will be an independent program attorney like myself. As one of the attorneys who regularly answers this hotline, I want to give you some tips and tricks to make this phone call as easy as possible.

  1. Tip #1: Treat the emergency hotline like 911. It is for emergency situations, generally ones in which law enforcement is already involved or will be involved shortly. Just like 911, we have to keep the emergency hotline clear for true emergencies and active, ongoing incidents. If you were involved in an incident last week, or just have a question about a situation, call the business line and ask to speak to your independent program attorney.
  2. Tip #2: Be patient. To ensure that the hotline is always answered by an attorney, even if there are many people calling at once with emergencies, the hotline is set up to roll to a list of available attorneys. Don’t get frustrated and hang up! The call WILL be answered by an attorney.
  3. Tip #3: Get to a private place and have your information ready. The purpose behind having an attorney answer the hotline directly is to establish attorney-client privilege right off the bat. Everything you say to the hotline attorney is confidential, so long as there isn’t a third party listening. If someone standing close by overhears you telling your story to the hotline attorney, that person can be called to testify about what you said. Try your best to get to a place where you can speak freely without being overheard. Then, be ready to give your name, location, LawShield member number, and callback number to the attorney on the other end of the line.
  4. Tip #4: Relax and let the independent program attorney steer the boat. The hotline attorney has been trained to take control of the situation. You have just had one of the worst days of your life, we don’t expect you to have a coherent statement ready for us. We will ask you the important questions to help make your first statement to law enforcement your best statement.
  5. Tip #5: Trust your attorney. Every case is different. Often, rushing an attorney to the scene is the right call to make. In other cases, an attorney on scene is going to provoke officers and make the situation worse, or possibly draw an extra level of scrutiny on your case. Sometimes, the best course of action is for you to hand the hotline over to officers so the attorney can speak to them directly upon their arrival. It all depends on your unique situation. The hotline attorney will use his or her knowledge of the law, your situation, and particular police agency to decide the best course of action. Trust them and heed the advice they have given.

I Defended My Loved One—My Pet Part 2 – Virginia

Paul Ready: Welcome back to Part II of our feature on defending your pets. In Part I, our member Clint was forced to defend his dog against an attack by another bigger dog. Many of you have asked what the law says about how and when you can defend your four-legged friends. The answer will be different depending on the law in your state. That’s why we’ve asked the Independent Program Attorneys in your state to tell us more.

In Part I, we saw the actions Clint took to defend his dog from being killed by the neighborhood stray. Now, in Part II you will learn if his actions followed the law. Watch Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor teach you the law, so you will know what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Ed Riley: In Virginia, you have the right to defend your domestic animal from attack, but the use of force must be reasonably and properly exercised. Focusing on this member situation, in Virginia Code Section 3.2-6570 Section F addresses it directly. If the dog or cat of the property owner is being attacked by another dog, whereas causing injury or death, then that property owner has the right to use reasonable and necessary force to protect his or her dog or cat

Paul: For more information on when you can use force in your state, please go to GunLawSeminar.com and register to attend one of our events in your area. If you missed Part I of Clint’s story, you can click the link on your screen to see it. And as always if you are not a member we would love for you to join us at uslawshield.com.

I Defended My Loved One—My Pet Part 2 – Colorado

In Part I, we saw the actions Clint took to defend his dog from being killed by the neighborhood stray. Now, in Part II you will learn if his actions followed the law. Watch Independent Program Attorney Doug Richards teach you the law, so you will know what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Paul Ready: Welcome back to Part II of our feature on defending your pets. In Part I, our member Clint was forced to defend his dog against an attack by another bigger dog. Many of you have asked what the law says about how and when you can defend your four-legged friends. The answer will be different depending on the law in your state. That’s why we’ve asked the Independent Program Attorneys in your state to tell us more.

Doug Richards: I think we all consider our pets to be an extension of our family. However, Colorado law says that our pets are simply private or personal property, and Colorado law further says that you cannot use deadly force to defend your private or personal property. So putting this into motion if you’re out walking your dog and another animal comes up to attack your dog you cannot, just on that alone, use deadly force to protect your private property or your dog. However, if you believe, reasonably believe, that that animal is going to be attacking you, or tries to attack you or a third party, then you can use the amount of force that’s reasonable under the circumstances to stop that threat just like you could stop any other threat under those similar circumstances. So that’s why if anything like this occurs in your life, whether it’s while you’re walking a dog or something attacks your animal in the back yard, and you end up having to discharge your firearm to stop a threat that’s ultimately coming towards you; you must immediately contact U.S. LawShield and let a trained attorney from my office help you navigate this situation to make sure everybody, including the police, understand that you were in fear for your life and that you are not simply trying to protect private property.

Paul: For more information on when you can use force in your state, please go to GunLawSeminar.com and register to attend one of our events in your area. If you missed Part I of Clint’s story, you can click the link on your screen to see it. And as always if you are not a member we would love for you to join us at uslawshield.com.

I Defended My Loved One—My Pet Part 2 – Georgia

In Part I, we saw the actions Clint took to defend his dog from being killed by the neighborhood stray. Now, in Part II you will learn if his actions followed the law. Watch Independent Program Attorney Matt Kilgo teach you the law, so you will know what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Paul Ready: Welcome back to Part II of our feature on defending your pets. In Part I, our member Clint was forced to defend his dog against an attack by another bigger dog. Many of you have asked what the law says about how and when you can defend your four-legged friends. The answer will be different depending on the law in your state. That’s why we’ve asked the Independent Program Attorneys in your state to tell us more.

Matt Kilgo: The law in Georgia gives a great deal of protection to you to protect yourself, your property, and your pet from other vicious animals or dogs. Let’s first talk about the general cruelty to animals statute in Georgia Official Code of Georgia 16 – 12 – 4.

Now, that statute says that you are legally justified in using force, or even deadly force to the degree there is a reasonable belief that such act is necessary, to defend against the imminent threat of injury or damage to any person, other animal, or property by the acts of another animal, In other words, if you, your property, or your animal are threatened by another animal, and you have a reasonable belief that you must act to protect yourself, your property, or another animal against that perceived threat, then the law justifies your use of force. A person who humanely injures or kills an animal under circumstances indicated in this subsection shall incur no civil liability or criminal responsibility for such injury or death. In other words, if you properly are justified in using force to protect yourself, your property, or an animal, then the law says you’re not civilly liable, and you bear no criminal responsibility. Now, that’s the Cruelty to Animals statute in Georgia.

There’s a secondary statute called cruelty to dogs. It’s a specific statute that deals with dogs and how you can protect yourself in a situation where you may be attacked by a vicious dog, or your pet is attacked by a dog. Official code of Georgia 4 – 8 – 5 is cruelty to dogs.

No person shall perform a cruel act on any dog, except that you may defend your home or person, or the person or property of another, from injury or damage being caused by a dog. Or more importantly, you may kill any dog causing injury or damage to any livestock, poultry, or pet animal. This law says that should you act against a dog to protect your pet, and that dog dies, you bear no criminal responsibility.

Now, there are some rules in place in order to avail yourself of the justification. Under the cruelty statute 16 – 12 – 4, you must not be in commission of a crime. You, or your animal, must not be trespassing on another property, and the acts to protect yourself, or your animal, must occur on the property where you’re threatened. In other words, you can’t go five blocks down to kill a dog after it’s threatened or bitten your dog. It must be imminent, which means about to happen, and it must be in a place on the property where the acts are occurring. Georgia law does provide you with a great deal of protection to protect yourself and your own animals or pets, such that if done properly then you bear no civil responsibility or civil liability or criminal responsibility

Paul: For more information on when you can use force in your state, please go to GunLawSeminar.com and register to attend one of our events in your area. If you missed Part I of Clint’s story, you can click the link on your screen to see it. And as always if you are not a member we would love for you to join us at uslawshield.com.

I Defended My Loved One—My Pet Part 2 – Florida

In Part I, we saw the actions Clint took to defend his dog from being killed by the neighborhood stray. Now, in Part II you will learn if his actions followed the law. Watch Independent Program Attorney David Katz teach you the law, so you will know what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Paul Ready: Welcome back to Part II of our feature on defending your pets. In Part I, our member Clint was forced to defend his dog against an attack by another bigger dog. Many of you have asked what the law says about how and when you can defend your four-legged friends. The answer will be different depending on the law in your state. That’s why we’ve asked the Independent Program Attorneys in your state to tell us more.

David Katz: Although Florida’s self-defense law allows you to use deadly force to protect another person, it does not extend to protecting your pets. Fortunately, Florida Statute 767.03 does allow a person to shoot a dog that has been, or is in the process of, killing their domestic animals, which includes dogs and cats. Reading the plain language of the statute, it appears that the attacking dog must have already killed a domestic animal, or be in the process of killing one of your pets. You must be careful here as it appears that the attacking dog must be causing such damage to your pet that it is about to die, or could die from the injuries, before you are allowed to shoot the attacking dog. Unfortunately, there is no case law outlining how much damage must happen to your pet before you reach this level. If it is determined that the attacking dog was not killing your pet, you could face animal cruelty charges for shooting the dog, which is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison

Paul: For more information on when you can use force in your state, please go to GunLawSeminar.com and register to attend one of our events in your area. If you missed Part I of Clint’s story, you can click the link on your screen to see it. And as always if you are not a member we would love for you to join us at uslawshield.com.