The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Preview – Aftermath

Illustrations by Joe Oesterle

A Criminal Defense Attorney Takes Us Through What Happens After You Pull The Trigger

Safety Disclaimer: The following story is for informational purposes only and is not, nor is it intended to provide, legal advice. The reader should consult with an appropriate professional regarding their individual situation. Any use of the information contained in this article shall be solely at the reader’s risk.

Bang! You have just fired your weapon in self-defense. A fellow human lies crumpled on the ground, perhaps fatally wounded. Your heart beats so loudly you’d swear others can hear it. Now what? Fears of arrest and prison race through your mind. Will others see this act as legally justified? “Did I do the right thing?” you ask yourself. “Am I going to get through this?”

Using a firearm in defense of your life will change you — forever. Law enforcement’s goal is only to determine whether the act was legal or justified. But, justified and legal are terms that are sometimes confusing to good, law-abiding people. What does justified mean?

In reality, others will determine the legality of the use of such action. You, and your use of deadly force, will be judged and held to a legal standard. This frightens some people. Like it or not, a self-defense encounter using deadly force will always be reviewed by others. It will likely be law enforcement initially, followed by a formal and charging decision by a prosecutorial agency. Here are some general concepts to review and assist you if ever faced with such a situation.

To remain on the right side of the law in any armed self-defense situation, you should learn how your actions may be interpreted by law enforcement and the justice system. You must be able to articulate the reasons why you had no other choice but to use your weapon in order to survive, and you should only use a firearm to defend against a deadly attack. This sounds obvious, but actually this is the key point in avoiding prosecution. Implied in this statement is:

  • I had no other option to save my life.
  • I was afraid my life was about to be taken.
  • I acted only to save myself.

You must be able to explain this to law enforcement in a convincing manner. There are several steps you can take to ensure your justifiable actions are recognized by the authorities.

STEP 1: Call 911 immediately. Put yourself in the position of law enforcement and the jury of your peers. Read the next two scenarios carefully and determine which sounds stronger when establishing self-defense:

Scenario 1: “911, what is your emergency?” “Help! Please help, some guy just pulled out a gun and shot someone, and I think the guy is dead. Please come quick!”

Scenario 2: “911, what is your emergency?” “Some guy just tried to kill me, and I had to save myself. Please send help!”

This illustrates a small weakness in the criminal justice system. Strangely, the first one to the phone often wins. This person is usually called the victim, and in these sorts of situations, you want to be thought of as the victim.

Law enforcement dispatchers must categorize and sort 911 calls. It’s much better to have all officers dispatched to the scene to help you, rather than to find you. You will not avoid being charged with a crime simply because you called 911. However, you’ll have established early on that you were acting in self-defense by calling and asking for help.

Do not run, hide, or disturb the scene because of fears of “this looks bad.” Never make law enforcement track you down. Any detective will instantly approach a suspect with greater suspicion if the suspect does anything perceived as running from the law or “doctoring” the scene. Run to the law, not away from them. Call 911 and articulate your fears and ask them for help.

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