Issue 13 Preview – Please, No More Clients… Jason Squires Illustration by Ced Nocon A Defense Attorney Zeroes in on the Topic of Armed Self-Defense Bang! A loud metallic sound comes from outside your bedroom window of your crowded subdivision in a typical American neighborhood. It’s 11:45 p.m. and you were just getting ready for bed. You retrieve your handgun — better safe than sorry. You proceed to the hallway near the bedroom of your children. You open the door to check on the sleeping kids and catch the flash of a human shape outside the window. Your brain registers danger and screams, “Act!” You deftly exit your residence to confront the intruder. As you sneak around the corner, your heart beats faster. A million thoughts of what the evildoer could be plotting run through your mind as you feel for the switch on your handgun’s weapon light. You see the dark clothing and back of the person you saw through the bedroom window. You creep up from behind and scream, “Freeze!” Your loaded, chambered firearm and light are pointed right into the face of the…neighbor’s daughter? Yes, your neighbor’s daughter. She screams, and the next thing you know, you’re explaining yourself to the police. Her crime and punishment? She is adjudged disobedient and her parents pronounce her sentence: grounded. Your crime and punishment? While jurisdictionally dependent, quite likely it might be aggravated assault and possibly prison. Unfortunately, this scenario is getting to be more and more common. The civilian firearms community is taking some of its cues from the military and law enforcement. Military people are coming home with all kinds of tactical experience and cool equipment, and officers patrol the streets with the same kit. Adding a flashlight to a pistol is like adding peanut butter to chocolate, right? Yes, but without a handheld flashlight as a primary, everything you illuminate also has a pistol pointed at it. I never want to see a good guy get in a bad situation in which he draws his firearm without thinking. An expert legal defense costs about $20,000 for the dangerous weapons charge. You’ll have to pay the fee. You’ll take years, perhaps decades, off your life. You might not ever be able to touch a firearm legally again. Your wife might leave you over the course of a year that ends up being similar to surviving a year of cancer. The stress of a vigorous defense takes its toll on every single person I represent. Rules to Live By We need to be prepared to address the laws on the books and the realities of what really happens in weapons-related cases. Without getting into the philosophical or political debate of what should or shouldn’t be the case, here are some basic rules of thumb I have put together for my clients: Rule One (Home): Never cross the threshold of your residence with a loaded, exposed firearm. What is this threshold? It’s the invisible ¼ inch of space that serves as an imaginary force field around your house. In law, detached garages and other structures that are on the owner’s property but not part of the physical residence are called “curtilage.” Generally, the law affords less protection to curtilage, as it usually contains possessions rather than humans in danger, so if you go to check your outbuildings, keep your gun in the holster. Note that rural communities are generally more forgiving of residents leaving the residence with a firearm, as they may have to deal with dangerous animals of the four-legged variety. Not so in suburbia. Rule Two (911): Always call 911 before doing anything. Jurors always ask, “Why didn’t he call 911?” It’s almost implied that good crime prevention begins with calling in the professionals for help. For better or worse, we live in a “civilized” society that looks to cops to do the actual dirty work. Rule Three (Proportionality): You can’t bring a gun to a shouting match. Is a knife held 50 feet from you a threat? For those of you who responded yes, please make your check payable to “Expert Legal Defense.” Rule Four (Afraid?): If unafraid, you shouldn’t have a weapon in your hand. Meaning: if not in fear for your life, or the life of a loved one, you should not unholster that firearm. Every jurisdiction recognizes the right of self-defense. Some jurisdictions dictate to what extent a firearm may be used to protect oneself. But, you must be in fear that you will be dead, or close to death, to use a firearm. If not, break away from the encounter and call the cops. 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