So, you’ve just been forced to defend yourself in a self-defense shooting. Now what do you do? In the heat of the moment, your only thought was to act in self-defense to protect your life; but once the smoke clears, your mind is rattled with worry…
Should I call the police? Will they arrest me? Do I need an attorney? What do I say after having just shot someone? Should I hide my gun? What am I supposed to do now?
HOW TO CALL 9-1-1
Your immediate response after a self-defense shooting should be to make sure you’re safe and that there is no longer an immediate threat to your life. Once you’re certain your life is no longer in danger, the first thing you need to do after acting in self-defense is call the police—especially if great bodily harm has been done to you or another person. Warning: All 9-1-1 calls are recorded, so be careful with what you say! Anyone would be nervous about talking to police after a self-defense shooting, so make sure you stick to the following points to ensure you don’t “overshare” with the operator and accidentally talk yourself into a conviction:
- Give your name and location.
- Request any emergency services needed (e.g., EMS and an ambulance).
- Say, “I was the victim of a crime.”
- Hang up!
Knowing what to say—and what not to say—after a self-defense shooting will make a huge difference in how the aftermath plays out. It is extremely important that you never tell the operator you “shot” or “killed” someone, or even that deadly force was used. Don’t give them any details of the self-defense shooting other than the bare minimum necessary to provide proper first response.
WHY YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY ON SPEED-DIAL
The next (and arguably the most important) thing you should do is call. your. attorney. If you’re smart and you’ve prepared for the worst-case scenario, then you already have one on speed-dial. Why? Because your attorney will be able to help you talk to the police without saying the wrong thing. They know all the legal jargon, and they can tell you when you shouldn’t use terms like “deadly force” and “standing your ground”—and when you should. They know how officers are trained to get you to spill the details of the incident in an unforgiving way, how to prevent you from falling for these traps, and how the legal system will use this information against you during a resulting trial. They will help you achieve the best possible outcome for the aftermath of your self-defense shooting.
Your attorney will ask you important questions about the incident, like where it happened, what you were doing, what degree of force (if any) the criminal was using, etc. Here are a few beneficial tips to make this phone call as effective as possible:
- Stay out of earshot of others when speaking to your attorney .
- Immediately provide emergency information (such as your location, emergency contact, a call-back number, )
- Trust your attorney’s advice and guidance!
By knowing the specifics of what happened and why you used the amount of force that you did, your attorney can help you word your official statement to the police in a way that won’t get you in deeper trouble down the road. Remember, you have substantial legal protection under the attorney-client privilege; take advantage of it! The details you share with your attorney about the self-defense shooting will remain private between you and them. But if anyone else overhears you, they could testify against you.
Chances are you’ve just had one of the worst days of your life if you were forced to protect yourself in a self-defense shooting. Listening to your attorney is the key to making sure you do the smartest thing possible, given the situation. They’re trained to take control in moments of uncertainty, so let them!
WHAT HAPPENS TO MY GUN AFTER A SELF-DEFENSE SHOOTING?
Unfortunately, you’re not out of the woods simply because you called your attorney. What should you do during that “in-between” time, after calling the police but before they show up on the scene? Should you “hide” your gun? No! But you should put it in a safe location where it’s properly secured. This may mean law enforcement needs to search your property or person in order to confiscate it. And you aren’t required to give consent to their search. In fact, you should not give consent! While they still might conduct a search anyway, be clear that you do not consent.
Follow the advice your attorney gives and, most importantly, if the police ask about your gun, do not lie. If they ask if you have a gun, be honest. Any other questions beyond that should be directed to your attorney. While you might be (understandably) worried about what happens to your gun if you tell the truth, hiding it from law enforcement or lying about it will never paint you in a good light.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE POLICE SHOW UP?
So, when the police do show up, what happens? Will you be cuffed and taken to jail? Will you be drug tested? Unfortunately, the answer to both of those questions is: maybe. Every self-defense shooting is a unique incident, and there is never a guarantee you won’t be arrested initially. The truth is that certain facts of a self-defense shooting, like whether you had the duty to retreat or if you were forced to protect a life, aren’t always considered by police in those initial moments. All they know is that they’ve been called to respond to a shooting.
If you’ve already called your attorney (as suggested), then you should be better prepared to handle whatever might happen when law enforcement and first responders show up. If you’re lucky, your attorney may even be able to meet you on the scene and directly help you from there. This is another reason it’s so crucial to call them right away and be honest with them about what happened leading up to, during, and after the self-defense shooting.
But what if you don’t have an attorney? Again, if you’re a gun owner and do not have an attorney you trust—get one. Don’t even finish reading this; go here and get prepared now.
All right, so you have an attorney—but you weren’t able to reach them before the police arrived. That’s okay; simply remain calm and invoke your legal rights! You absolutely have the right to speak to your attorney before speaking to the police. You absolutely have the right to remain silent. It makes no difference whether the incident was a self-defense shooting or an uneventful break-in. Don’t toss your rights and protections out the window because the police were a little faster in response time. Will refusing to talk to law enforcement cause them to arrest you? Possibly. But it’s easier to get released from temporary detainment than from a wrongful conviction.
The goal isn’t to convince them to NOT arrest you; the goal is to protect your freedom and your rights. This is accomplished by talking to your attorney first, following their advice, and cooperating with officers as much as possible—even if they’re cuffing you.
Remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse that will hold up in court! Every U.S. LawShield® member can rest easy knowing they have direct access to the AttorneyResponse 365TM emergency hotline and an attorney they can count on, day or night. If you’re not already prepared for what happens after a self-defense shooting, then check out the powerful protection of U.S. LawShield legal defense for self-defense coverage now.
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