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Old October 6, 2005, 05:33 PM   #1
swmike
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The Cost of Defending after a good shoot?

I was in my loca Gun Shop the other day and the discussion turned to what would occur in the aftermath of a "Self Defense" shooting. After the Police have investigated and the DA has determined that the shooting was justified, the following statement(s) were offered:

"Even in the case of the most righteous shooting, you will incur at least a $50,000 legal expense to defend yourself against the BG or his estate." The party making this statement cited "all the Certified Instructors I have talked to". Also cited was Massad Ayoob.

From this, I have three questions:

What constitutes a Certified Instructor and where do they get their facts?

Who, besides Massad Ayoob, has a good handle on the real world of Guns and Self Defense, and writes for magazines?

What are the real world costs of a "Good Shooting" (meaning it was found to be totally justifiable and the local authorities refuse to file any charges).
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Old October 6, 2005, 05:41 PM   #2
afewloosescrews
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First hand experience...

I have heard a handfull first hand stories where people have used guns in self defense and NONE of them were prosecuted in civil court, nobody cared what kind of ammo they used and police were very helpful throughout the entire process. Also, on at least one of the stories, I would not consider the shooting justified. Now, that might be because I live in a gun friendly area, but I have yet to see someone have to pay a penny as a result of a genuine self defense shooting. I tend to ignore a lot of the hype about what *might* happen as a result of a self-defense shooting and plan more for what will *probably* happen.
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Old October 6, 2005, 05:46 PM   #3
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You ask some good questions but I think you will get back fuzzy answers. It is the nature of the game.

Realize that you may spend a tremendous amount on a laywer before the DA ever comes back and tell you it was a "good shooting". Many would retain a laywer immediately (if not have one on retainer) to work with them throughout the process.

Much will depend on the state you are in and whether they allow you to be sued. I think a $50k bill is not unreasonable. I believe I have heard people spending $10k-30k but can't come up with specifics.
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Old October 6, 2005, 05:46 PM   #4
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Under most self defense shootings there will be enough controversial facts taht you would be well advised to exercise your right to remain silent and not speak with the police or anyone and have all communications go through a good lawyer. This will cost a few thousand bucks.

However, in a situation that is not complicated (random stranger BG kicks in your front door with a weapon and you shoot and kill him), you may feel confident enough talking to the police because it's not complicated.

Tough call, but I would get a lawyer in nearly every situation.
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Old October 6, 2005, 06:00 PM   #5
danco
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Remember Rule 5 of gun safety:

"Always have Personal Liability Umbrella Coverage, of at least $1 million"...

It pays your defense costs...

~Dan
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Old October 6, 2005, 06:07 PM   #6
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Good question - I doubt if there is a good answer though. The kind of people who go to the trouble and expense of obtaining chls and weapons, do tend to be on the "uneasy side of not quite paranoid". Myself included. As a natural consequence you hear all kinds of fluff about how you will be spending money to defend yourself, how you will be sued in civil court, etc....But, I have yet to see defnitive database information on when and how often a self defense shooter needs legal assitance afterwards.

I think it is a natural part of that "uneasy side of not quite paranoid" that leads to those kinds of stories. I would like to see some objective and broad based evidence on this if anyone knows of a resource.
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Old October 6, 2005, 06:58 PM   #7
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Our instructor told us $25k for starters, up front. I'm going to look into the umbrella coverage. Might not be a bad idea regardless.
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Old October 6, 2005, 08:09 PM   #8
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I don't know if the $50K figure is accurate in all cases. It will depend on what kind of attorney you get and what they charge. What the person said was pretty much accurate. Even in a 101% justified shooting expect to be sued civilly by either the survivor or his family. If you have any assets at all then it's a very good possibility. This has nothing at all to do with the prosecutor nor the state. It's action brought by an individual against an individual. Even if the shooting was 101% justified and the victim or family have no real case to win, you're still going to be forced to pay for an attorney to represent you. The victim or family won't win a dime, but you'll still have to pay your attorney. Attorneys aren't cheap, particularly when they are hiring expert witnesses. Failing to secure adequate defense, even when you are really sure you were right, is going to cost you more than the price of an attorney.
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Old October 6, 2005, 08:34 PM   #9
Denny Hansen
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Quote:
Who, besides Massad Ayoob, has a good handle on the real world of Guns and Self Defense, and writes for magazines?
Scott Reitz wrote about the aftermath of a shooting in his latest column in S.W.A.T. I received an email from a police officer just this morning thanking me for running that column as he was in a shooting two days ago and found the info invaluable.

Scott not only has a good handle of the real world, he arguably has the handle. For those few not familiar with him, he's a 30-year veteran of LAPD, with most of his years spent at Metro and with D Platoon (SWAT). He has been in numerous shootings himself, and testifies for officers in most of the officer-involved-shootings for LAPD, as he is their primary trainer.

Writers who hypothesize about the aftermath is one thing. Writer’s who’ve been there are a whole different kettle of fish.

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Old October 6, 2005, 08:46 PM   #10
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I was a CCW instructor for 10 years. One of my students was the chief investigator for a leading defense attorney in that town. He said his employer wouldn't talke a case without $100,000 up front. I'm sure you could find a defense lawyer for less, the question would be what you got for your money.

As someone else said, I don't think there is a hard, fast answer to the original question. You pay your money and take your chances.

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Old October 6, 2005, 09:53 PM   #11
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I'm hearing about some "Personal Liability Coverage" which I assume is some sort of insurance. What type of insurance is this and what type of costs are incurred in funding it? Is this something your "usual" insurance company can handle or is it something specific?
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Old October 6, 2005, 09:58 PM   #12
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Talk to who ever handles your home owners insurance. They can usually do a rider or hook you up with a company that will do a policy.
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Old October 6, 2005, 10:13 PM   #13
chemist308
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Wow... $50K i'm worth a little more than that dead, but a lot less alive...It's be more frugal to let the bastard kill me...
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Old October 6, 2005, 11:41 PM   #14
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Danco, I would check your insurance coverage. Most, as I understand it, do not cover intentional shootings. In the case of a defensive shooting, it is a purposeful shooting.

It is hard to convince people that " I feared for my life so I accidently shot him". I would not count on your homeowners or umbrella coverage to cover the situation unless you specifically know it does.

I thought the NRA offered some sort of insurance for this type of situation.
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Old October 7, 2005, 08:49 AM   #15
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About what it costs to bury you and pay estate taxes.
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Old October 7, 2005, 06:58 PM   #16
Mike T
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I've heard the $50,000 amount from an attorney who's active in my club and in our classes. That's assuming a criminal trial and civil trial.

Remember you signifigantly lower your odds of being tried for at least a criminal offense if you do a couple things right. Know before you carry the name or names of pro-gun defense attorneys. Should you need to use your gun to defend yourself, safe & holster your weapon and wait for the police to arrive. When they ask you "what happened here" tell them, "officer I was in fear for my life, I wish to cooperate with you however I request that my attorney be present before I make any further statements".

Remember most cops are conditioned to think any guy with a gun is a bad guy, so keep it simple and let your attorney talk for you.
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Old October 7, 2005, 08:12 PM   #17
AAshooter
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Don't rule out taking the offensive and suing the "victim's" estate. Clearly his/her actions caused damages.
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Old October 7, 2005, 08:14 PM   #18
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This is probably not a good plan by any means, but I was wondering what would happen in this situation. You are walking home at night, a BG attacks you/threatens you with a deadly weapon, thus giving you the legal right to defend your self and shoot him. You shoot, he dies, no one else sees it. You could easily go home and leave the BG on the street, and no one would know besides you. Would this be a bad idea? You shot legally, and had every right to defend yourself. There is no need to do anything else is there? Do you have to call 911 and say, "hello, i just shot a guy who tried to kill me."? Whats the deal here?
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Old October 7, 2005, 08:34 PM   #19
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If no one saw, might be a okay strategy; however, you leave your fate to chance. By not reporting it, you "look" guilty. Should they track you down or you are observed leaving the scene . . . it does not play to your benefit.

You want to be the first to report it if possible. Get a record . . . 911 calls are recorded. If appropriate, request medical help for your "victim", request a police officer in order that you can press charges, and stay put if you can safely.

To leave without cause and not report it indicates guilt whether you are guilty or not.
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Old October 7, 2005, 08:37 PM   #20
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"You shoot, he dies, no one else sees it. You could easily go home and leave the BG on the street, and no one would know besides you. Would this be a bad idea? You shot legally, and had every right to defend yourself. There is no need to do anything else is there? Do you have to call 911 and say, "hello, i just shot a guy who tried to kill me."? Whats the deal here?"

Well the deal is that "no one else sees it" isn't going to happen, unless you two are alone in the middle of the desert. In any city, a gunshot will bring out more witnesses than you ever thought existed.

You might not have committed a crime in the shooting, but by leaving the scene, you are committing several crimes, and the police and DA will assume you were in the wrong. When (not if) you are found, the charge will almost certainly be first degree murder. Remember, by your scenario, there are no witnesses, which means none for you either.

Talking about expenses, don't forget that IF bail is allowed, a bondsman wants 10 percent up front, non-refundable. So if bail is set at $500k (not unusual in a homicide), you or your family is out $50 grand right there just to get you out of jail.

Two factors everyone overlooks.

1) Why were you and the other person in contact in the first place?

Were you in a fight? If so, what and who started the fight? Did you antagonize or stalk him? Did you go into his neighborhood? Did you have legitimate business, or were you looking for trouble? Did you "go hunting" just to see if you could kill someone and get away with it? Were you drunk or drugged up? Did you avail yourself of an opportunity to leave if he was the aggressor? Did you use appropriate force, based on his actions and weapon (or lack of a weapon)? Did you ever brag about "getting" someone, or "trying out my new gun"?

2) What is your race and the race of the other person?

Anyone who thinks that doesn't matter is living in dreamland. Shoot a person of another race, in his neighborhood, witnessed by people of his race, and see what happens. In some places you would be lucky to live to appear in court.

Jim
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Old October 7, 2005, 08:50 PM   #21
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I know a fellow who used pepper spray to defend himself. This was near Buffalo, NY more than 5 years ago. He spent $10,000 defending himself from the resulting charges. That was for pepper spray, which is only one step up from command voice in the scale of force.

Realize that what will fly in rural west Texas may not fly in a major East Coast city.
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Old October 7, 2005, 09:13 PM   #22
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I have an 'insurance policy' it's a pre-paid legal plan that costs me $25 a month. It covers me up to a certain amount of legal work, from a local lawyer, but I'd have to look it up to see what the limitations are. I am covered for anything other than drunk driving with this plan.

The joke is on anyone who tries to sue me, I don't own anything and I'm perpetually broke. It all belongs to the bank!

Also, getting a judgement against someone, and actually collecting are two different things. An instructor told me that if someone sues you and wins, they cannot touch your cars or home. I don't know though, we don't study too much civil law.
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Old October 7, 2005, 09:31 PM   #23
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Those pre-paid legal plans are a scam, IMO. They have been procecuted in several states and canada. Anyone ever try to use services from one?
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Old October 7, 2005, 09:38 PM   #24
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I've used mine once or twice for small things that require a lawyer, but never for actual legal defense.
Mine is through Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc.
They've been in business since 1972.
The representatives came to our police department and offered it to all officers, and a lot signed up. So, if they're scammers, they really pulled a good one!
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Old October 7, 2005, 10:49 PM   #25
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Personally, I've always thought that any type of insurance to buffer you from claims against your person in the wake of a "defensive" shooting could be used by a prosecutor to taint the judge or jury's perception of you. Sort of a "he was expecting to shoot someone" rationale.
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