food for thought

Not being a lawyer or someone who has been in any way involved in a self-defense shooting or even situation, I cannot speak as to whether or not this is good advice, but it is advice:

If the gun owner is involved in a shooting, the first, last and only words to the police should be, “I cannot talk to you until I have consulted with my attorney.” This statement is not obstructionist, does not imply guilt, and does not make the gun owner anti-law enforcement. Just keep in mind that it is not the job of the police or prosecutor to “clear” the gun owner. While the police and prosecutor do have an underlying duty to do justice, keep in mind that the first job of law enforcement is to document and prosecute crimes. They are under no duty to help you establish your claims of self-defense.

You can get the book that excerpt came out of here, but it is definitely something to consider – after massively high-stress situations (like, for example, self-defense scenarios), humans are notoriously unreliable, mentally and physically unbalanced, and arguably in shock. While you are coming to terms with the personal, social, legal, and moral ramifications of what you just experienced in a self-defense situation, what would your intended response to police be?

16 thoughts on “food for thought”

  1. Erin,
    Castle doctrine only protects you in your place of residence. It doesn’t protect you if someone tries to mug you while pumping gas.

    @linoge Bottom line is to NEVER talk to the police. Seriously watch the video. My dad had a juris doctorate and his statement was to NEVER talk to the police without consulting an attorney. (I made that mistake while in shock [two broken legs, pain killers, traction, blood loss, it wasn’t pretty] from an auto wreck. Guess what, it didn’t work in my favor.) You loose nothing by remaining silent until you talk to an attorney. You gain absolutely nothing by talking to them. Even more than that you can end up in serious trouble by talking to them.

  2. @Barron: “Castle Doctrine” is a broad term that refers to many “no duty to retreat” or “stand your ground” self-defense laws.

    For example, jury instructions in Washington state include:

    WPIC 17.05 Lawful Force—No Duty To Retreat

    It is lawful for a person who is in a place where that person has a right to be and who has reasonable grounds for believing that [he][she] is being attacked to stand [his][her] ground and defend against such attack by the use of lawful force.
    [The law does not impose a duty to retreat.][Notwithstanding the requirement that lawful force be “not more than is necessary,” the law does not impose a duty to retreat. Retreat should not be considered by you as a “reasonably effective alternative.”]

    There’s also a school of thought that holds you should only say “I was in fear for my life” and then repeat the attorney mantra.

    But, yeah, don’t ever volunteer anything to the police in this situation. Also, if they take you into custody, don’t talk about it to anybody you meet in jail.

  3. Castle doctrine or not, stand your ground or not, will talking to the police without an attorney ever benefit you? In some cases, it might not screw you. In other cases it will screw you. In no case (that I’ve thought of/seen) will it actually make things better.

  4. @John Hardin
    Self-defense is for the jury to decide, not the police. This is doubly so in the state of Washington. There your court costs will be reimbursed if ruled self defense, including under castle doctrine. Washington’s castle doctrine when laid out is not like in other states, it is the most broad of any of them.

    Castle Law is derived from English law and specifically ties to residence. I use residence loosely because it also applies to other places you may have a right to be such as a hotel room, or some other temporary accommodation. How this applies to self-defense out in the open is a much larger gray area.

    That rule in the state of Washington is an attempt to spread it outside of accommodation. One should always remember the root of that law, and never count on the law to come to your rescue either.

    Jury instructions are subject to revision and can change. Jury instructions are NOT law, it is an interpretation of the Law. It is an attempt to control the comprehension of the law as applied by the jury.

    As a life long resident of Washington I am quite familiar with the state’s castle doctrine, but again, it’s the exception NOT the norm in the rest of the states. My goal is to provide solid information that will help anyone. Hope is not a plan and there’s a set of laws we’re dealing with currently.

  5. Plan to say nothing except “lawyer” repeatedly. Even though I have a pretty high pain threshold from the fibromyalgia, I’ve never broken a bone or had serious trauma done to me, so…
    I wonder if I should do a controlled, MythBusters/military-training type torture experiment and see how much I pain I can tolerate before I stop screaming ‘lawyer’ and blurt out a pre-determined phrase.

  6. JR-
    Shock has very weird effects on the mind and thought processes. Doubly so when you’re being drugged for the pain causing you to go into shock.

    To give you the idea of the pain and situation.
    -Broken, right femur (so high they thought I broke my hip)
    -Broken, left tib fib, compound, middle of the shin
    -Broken mandible
    -Severe lacerations to the left arm and face
    -Severe blood loss
    -Concussion (blunt force trauma to the head)
    -Mild hypothermia

    I set my compound fracture in my left leg prior to leaving the accident scene. *I remember everything up until they finally got an IV started.* I was so calm and coherent I had to instruct some nurses who were there on immediate response protocol until the ambulance was there. Everyone was worried Janelle had a broken neck with 0 thought to the fact that the seat belt was choking her. Without the ABCs everything else is pointless. Once I was on the helicopter though my brain started it’s down hill move. It didn’t help that the amount of pain I was in just to get me out of the car was excruciating.

  7. I AM lawyer, and here’s my advice.

    1) When law enforcement arrives, make sure your weapon is holstered. Do no wave it around. Duh.

    2) IMMEDIATELY tell law enforcement “I was in fear for my life (or my wife’s life, etc., as the case may be)” or words to that effect. Be yourself; this should not sound rehearsed. Do not deny the obvious; if those are your bullets in the goblin, say so. Cooperate in providing identifying information (name, address, etc.) including providing your concealed carry permit, if applicable. SAY NOTHING ELSE at this time.

    4) Get names and contact information of any witnesses there may be. Don’t assume law enforcement will do so.

    5) At some point, you will be asked to make a statement. DO NOT do so, without speaking to an attorney. I’d suggest – “Officer, I’m rattled by this experience; I’ve never fired rounds at a person before. I need to collect my thoughts, and speak to an attorney before I give any statement. I hope you understand.” Be polite. But be firm. DO NOT give a statement to law enforcement before first speaking to an attorney – you may, and probably will, be advised not to give a statement at all.

    I sincerely hope you never need to use this advice.

  8. I like GMC70 comment but we according to the great one Massad Ayoob a couple of other steps should be added. One be the first to call 911 Mas says that the first person to call is generally given the status (right or wrong) as the defender. Two note and protect all the evidence (including witnesses) so that you can point it and them out to the police when they arrive. When the police show up point out the witnesses and evidence, tell the police you were in fear for your life and that you are willing to sign the complaint. something to the effect “officer I was in fear for my life and I’m willing to sign the complaint after I have talked to my lawyer.”

    Protecting the evidence is key, in a recent article (sorry but I forget which magazine) he talked of a case where someone was in a defensive shooting situation and some witness walked off with the bad guys guns. Kind of hard to argue self defense when the bad guy didn’t have a gun…

    And to reiterate GMC70 last statement lets pray that all the readers of this blog and comments never have to find them in need of Mas as an expert witness for the defense.

  9. Expanding on GMC70’s and David’s advice (I THINK this is also from Mas Ayoob):

    When you call 911, DO NOT SAY “I just shot someone.” Say something like, “I need an ambulance, there’s been a shooting.” (The police will come anyway.) It doesn’t matter if it’s self-defense, saying you shot someone sounds guilty, and you can bet your last dollar that if it goes to trial, the prosecutor WILL want to play that 911 tape.

  10. Thanks for the feedback everyone… I definitely will need to write up another post when I get home highlighting all of the key points.

    And for the sake of clarification, most states do differentiate between “castle doctrine” and “stand your ground” – I am fairly certain TN has both laws, while Kalifornistan only has the former (and only on the books… courts routinely ignore it).

  11. @Barron
    If medics routinely check them, I guess I should put on my dog tags that I refuse narcotics? If there was case law that said any statements made under the influence of emergent-administered narcotics were categorically inadmissible, it wouldn’t be a problem.

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