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Old February 7, 2012, 05:01 PM   #26
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I guess you all missed the hint from my original post.

Possibly this strategy is in use by another group interested in civil liberties of a different type.
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Old February 7, 2012, 05:10 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by nate45
...Never talk to the police, without the advise and consent of an attorney...
Often, but not always, good advice.

If Claiming Self Defense, Keeping Completely Quiet Is Not the Best Idea, But Don't Say Too Much.

Call 911. Be the first to report the incident and do so immediately. If you don't report it, or if there's a long delay, you will appear to have a guilty conscience.

Then, having taken LFI-I with Massad Ayoob, spending time with him and helping with a class of his in Sierra Vista, AZ not too long ago, I'll go along with his recommendation for when the police arrive.

[1] While one has a right to remain silent, clamming up is what the bad guys do. Following a self defense incident, you'll want to act like one of the good guys. You also won't want the investigating officers to miss any evidence or possible witnesses. What if the responding officers miss your assailant's knife that you saw fall down the storm drain? What if they don't know about the guy you saw pick up your assailant's gun and walk off with it?

[2] The police arrive and see a body on the ground with bullet holes in it, and they see you with a gun nearby. They will immediately be inclined to think of the ventilated corpse as The Victim and the guy still standing as The Attacker. But you're really the victim, and you'd prefer the police to have that in their minds as they begin their investigation.

[3] At the same time, you don't want to say too much. You will most likely be rattled. You will also most likely be suffering from various well known stress induced distortions of perception.

[4] So Massad Ayoob recommends:
  • Saying something like, "That person (or those people) attacked me." You are thus immediately identifying yourself as the victim. It also helps get the investigation off on the right track.
  • Saying something like, "I will sign a complaint." You are thus immediately identifying the other guys(s) as the criminal(s).
  • Pointing out possible evidence, especially evidence that may not be immediate apparent. You don't want any such evidence to be missed.
  • Pointing out possible witnesses.
  • Then saying something like, "I'm not going to say anything more right now. You'll have my full cooperation in 24 hours, after I've talked with my lawyer."

Last edited by Frank Ettin; February 7, 2012 at 10:20 PM.
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Old February 7, 2012, 05:18 PM   #28
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Thats all good advice fiddletown, I suppose I wasn't clear enough.

I didn't me it to pertain to an initial statement(careful statement), or answering routine questions in a traffic stop, etc.

I meant when one is about to undergo formal questioning.

Answering questions when you are a suspect, or potential suspect, without an attorney, is a bad move.
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Old February 7, 2012, 06:22 PM   #29
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Agree with skans and vermonter.

In minor situations where you are confident of your innocence, there is no reason not to answer simple questions and possibly consent to a search as well. The alternative, to just let yourself get arrested, is not something I, IMHO, want to happen when a simple explanation might address the officer's concern. A simple arrest on your record can be a huge negative even if nothing happens because of it. I have and will invite an officer into my home as well.

No, I believe a measure of reasonable cooperation is fine unless you know you are under some sort of scrutiny or know you have done something "wrong."
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Old February 7, 2012, 07:22 PM   #30
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moxie, there's absolutely no reason to invite an on-duty officer into your home. Nothing good can come of it. You don't what the officer knows, and an innocent item could put you in prison.

For instance, the officer sees a candy dish your wife bought 30 years ago. No problem, right? But how could you know if it's a problem or not? Let's say a dish exactly like that was taken during a home invasion and murder.

Now the officer has reasonable suspicion to take your house apart in a search for other evidence. You become a "person of interest", your phone records are scrutinized, your travel history is investigated, etc.

Uh-oh, turns out you were in Pittsburgh the same weekend of the murder. There's no evidence connecting you directly to the murder, but the prosecutor is able to build a circumstantial case against you.

The most innocent things begin to look sinister. The prosecutor paints you in the worst way in front of the jury. You can see the scorn and hatred in the jury's faces. Your attorney THINKS he can get you off, but can't guarantee you won't be put away for 20 years. He advises you to take a plea bargain, 3 years plus probation.

All this because you let the officer in rather than talk to him out on the porch.
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Old February 7, 2012, 08:38 PM   #31
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Good lord now my off duty friends are looking for candy dishes. Is it really that scary to folks to deal with police?
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Old February 7, 2012, 08:43 PM   #32
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Moxie said:
[I]In minor situations where you are confident of your innocence, there is no reason not to answer simple questions and possibly consent to a search as well. The alternative, to just let yourself get arrested, is not something I, IMHO, want to happen when a simple explanation might address the officer's concern. A simple arrest on your record can be a huge negative even if nothing happens because of it. I have and will invite an officer into my home as well.[/I]

Police officers generally question people who they suspect have committed a crime. You might think answering their questions or letting them search your property is innocent and will get you out of being arrested, however, you are establishing probable cause for an arrest through your statements and from the basis of a search. I would say that by answering questions and letting them search your property you are MORE likely to get arrested then if you politely told them "I wish to remain silent and consult with an attorney" and did not consent to the search.

Police searches are usually messy. They might take everything out of your car or empty out bags on the ground. Your private belongings will be sifted through thoroughly. There might even be illegal stuff in there which you have no knowledge. Do you have teenagers? When I went to high school, I knew guys who left marijuana in their parents car. There might be stuff from a previous owner, a valet, someone who used the car before, etc.

There have been quite a few firearms owners who thought they did everything right, but then they ended up in big trouble. For example, Harold Fish. Mr. Fish's first mistake was talking to the police detective. Mr Fish thought he did nothing wrong and talking to the police was the best practice. However, each time Mr. Fish repeated the story it would change slightly. Most stories do change slightly as you keep telling them. Mr. Fish should have only communicated to the police through an attorney. He should have never met with them on his own. What seemed like a routine matter turned into Mr. Fish getting charged and convicted of murder.

So even in situations which seem minor or where you believe you did nothing wrong, my opinion is not to say anything at all. You dont have to be standoffish or rude. Simply state to the officer you would like to remain silent. You will find more people get arrested as a result of saying too much rather then just staying silent.
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Old February 7, 2012, 10:21 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by CaptainObvious
...There have been quite a few firearms owners who thought they did everything right, but then they ended up in big trouble. For example, Harold Fish. Mr. Fish's first mistake was talking to the police detective...
Actually, to be more specific, Fish's mistake was saying too much too soon. For recommendations on handling a police contact after having fired a gun in what you believe to have been self defense, see post my post 28, above.

Last edited by Frank Ettin; February 8, 2012 at 12:04 AM.
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Old February 8, 2012, 01:17 AM   #34
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Obey the law before you are stopped.

If you were breaking it,just admit it and don't take it out of the officer when you were being an idiot to begin with.

Talk to the officer like he's a human being because he is.

Don't be all paranoid.

Only answer the questions asked.

If the officer cuts you a break-just say thank you and be on your way.

If you get a ticket and you know you deserved it,just man up,and pay the consequences.

As far as dealing with the police after a self defense shooting-after reading what I've read here,I'd almost have to say-tell the officers,"I have to get an attorney first and I'll gladly meet you at the station when I can get one to represent me in this matter."

But the officers will ask you questions becuase they need to hear from you why you shot this guy that was attacking you.

I just don't see how you can say-"I'll talk you you at the station with an attorney" on that.

That puts up a red flag to the officers that you might have not been right in what you did.

I hope I never have to deal with that.
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Old February 8, 2012, 05:22 AM   #35
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What kind of lives are some of yall leading? Stop worrying about the The police should be the least of your problems. As one poster said so intelligently... Treat the police the same way you want to be treated. 99 and 9/10ths of all cops are on your side. No cop wants to get a civilian complaint for harassment, or abuse of authority. More often than not if they do interact with you it's based upon information or complaint from one of your neighbors.
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Old February 8, 2012, 05:58 AM   #36
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If only it was that simple. The police are allowed to lie to us, but we are not allowed to lie to them.

They also can and do use intimidation, and they're very good at it: "Your refusal to let me search your trunk makes me think you've got something to hide. Don't make me get a warrant."

Most people will open their trunk, not knowing their rights. Bottom line, if the cop has to ask permission, he has no legal right to search, and getting a warrant will be extremely difficult.

But I've got nothing to hide! Really? Do you KNOW that? Suppose your wife used the car to go to the garden center and now there's a shovel and some dirt in the trunk. And what's that roll of duct tape doing in there?

Also ,many of us keep a bug-out bag or get home bag in the trunk. It may or may not contain weapons or "burglary" tools, but it certainly makes it look like you're ready to go hide out in the woods at a moment's notice.
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Old February 8, 2012, 06:01 AM   #37
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A girlfriend of mine was stopped for a random gate check, years ago, after her high school aged son had borrowed the car.

He was playing a part in a school play, some medieval thing.

He'd left his props behind, in the trunk, which she did not realize.

Security was (luckily) pretty amused by the whip, leather mask, and manacles, but not as amused by the broadsword... Fortunately, the situation was resolved in a sensible manner.

Point being, it might be a good idea to periodically see what you actually have in your trunk, especially if others have access to the vehicle.
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Old February 8, 2012, 07:43 AM   #38
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From an LEO perspective, I think it is a good to evaluate the circumstances and determine what is in your best interests. Absolutes can cost you an unnecessary trip to the jail, whether or not you ultimately face prosecution. The standard for probable cause is much lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Total silence on your part may give the investigating officer nothing to work with to show you acted in the right. He may have no choice but to stick you in the jail for the night (that might be fine with you). For shootings, I like the advice posted regarding Ayoob's information. You should be an advocate for your own cause by showing some cooperation. Nothing wrong will stating that you will be giving a full statement under advice of an attorney. Heck, we afford our police officers that same treatment when they are involved in a shooting. All citizens are free to remain silent at all times in all situations. However, if you are truly innocent of criminal activity, and you are in the right emotional state, talking to the police will usually help your cause.
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Old February 8, 2012, 08:29 AM   #39
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If you are innocent, or guilty it matters not which, it is not in your interests to answer police questions without an attorney.
Never say never. This is not correct 100% of the time. Prosecutors do talk to arresting officers and listen to their input (sometimes) in determining whether, and to what extent, to work out a plea deal. The impression you gave the arresting officer may have a substantial impact on the final resolution of your case. Remember, most criminal infractions never get to trial, especially when it involves someone without a prior record.

However, it is true that far more cases are made against criminal defendants primarily based on what they've said to the arresting officers. Generally speaking, a person would be better off politely refusing to answer questions without an attorney............but not always.
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Old February 8, 2012, 08:48 AM   #40
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I wrote this thread for law abiding, well intentioned firearms owners who find themselves in situations with the police and that is the spirit of the thread.

I mentioned earlier Harold Fish which is a good example of a law abiding, well intentioned firearms owner who got in trouble with the law. Another example is Brian Aitken where during the course of moving from one residence to the other found himself being arrested by the police because of the unloaded firearms in his trunk which were being transported.

Brian's first mistake was going back to talk to the police without consulting with an attorney. When he received that phonecall, he should have told them that he would like to speak with an attorney first. Then when the police started searching his car he should have voiced out loud that he does not consent to the search. Before meeting with the police he should have dropped off the firearms at his new home which goes back to not exposing yourself.

A firearms owner can protect themselves from these occurences by following what I posted originally which is:
- Stay calm

- Don't answer questions and exercise your right to stay silent to the greatest extent.

- Do not consent to searches and verbally state such. Don't invite the police into your home, car or business.

- Speak to an attorney first before speaking to the police. Let an attorney be your guide through the process rather then the police or prosecutor

- Do not expose yourself

- Know the law

Think out a strategy now before you find yourself in a Brian Aitken or Harold Fish scenario. Figure out a way not to get into these situations in the first place.
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Old February 8, 2012, 09:47 AM   #41
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Is it really that scary to folks to deal with police?
Depends on the situation, If it's just a simple traffic stop, no problem.

If it is the aftermath of a self defense encounter, then it can be very scary indeed. What I say, or do, can, and will be used against me. I am not a Lawyer so, I would like someone who is more competent in such matters to advise me in such a potentially ambiguous situation.

Stop worrying about the The police should be the least of your problems.
Unfortunately, anywhere outside Mayberry , that's not the case.

99 and 9/10ths of all cops are on your side.
I don't like those odds... and;

The police are allowed to lie to us, but we are not allowed to lie to them.

They also can and do use intimidation, and they're very good at it
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Old February 8, 2012, 11:22 AM   #42
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I have to say that I really like BDS32's perspective on this!

However, I also appreciate much of what Captain Obvious stated. I really think you can subscribe to both of these bits of advice. Good points made by both (IMHO), which are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
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Old February 8, 2012, 12:23 PM   #43
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I have a little printout in my wallet. It says this:


M- Medical attention- ask for it whether you think you need it or not
A- Attacker- identify the attackers
C- Criminal complaint- offer to sign one
E- Evidence- point out any that may be overlooked

S- Searches- do not consent to any
A- Attorney- you wish to make no further statements without one
W- Witnesses- point out any to responding police

I think this boils a lot of the info in this thread down in a good, simple manner.
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Old February 8, 2012, 12:41 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by AH.74
...Medical attention- ask for it whether you think you need it or not...
Not a good idea. Asking for medical attention without a good faith belief that it is necessary can severely damage your credibility. (And of course, the police will no doubt find that card on which you remind yourself ask for medical attention whether you need it or not.)
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Old February 8, 2012, 01:26 PM   #45
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"However in a routine traffic stop I see no reason to be so stand offish. "

Exactly. Cops have a high enough stress level without pulling over some guy for a broken tail light and then putting up with a bunch of "I'm not speaking until I have an attorney" nonsense. Just be freaking polite, he's just doing his job.
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Old February 8, 2012, 01:41 PM   #46
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Exactly. Cops have a high enough stress level without pulling over some guy for a broken tail light and then putting up with a bunch of "I'm not speaking until I have an attorney" nonsense. Just be freaking polite, he's just doing his job.
His job is not to help you. His job does not trump your fundamental rights. Further, you can be polite AND STILL protect those rights.
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Old February 8, 2012, 01:46 PM   #47
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Difference between sd and routine stop

Ok I can see the different angle here but still. I figure that if I ever truly need a firearm in a SD situation I will be shaken up, uneasy, possibly actually in need of medical attention etc.

I would think it would only be propper to give a statment of generalities to help the responding officers understand what they are dealing with. They are going to want to secure the area and they are surley going to want to know if anyone is at large.

Making no statment at all without a lawyer kindof gets in the way here doesn't it?
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Old February 8, 2012, 01:59 PM   #48
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I don't understand the whole "never say anything to the police".

Say you're in some convience store and the only other person in there is the clerk. Say some bad guy comes in and murders the clerk. You're able to get your firearm out and defend yourself without getting killed; bad guy dies in the process. When the police show up, there's 3 people in the store, 2 of which are dead and the only non dead person has a gun and refuses to talk.

I don't know about the rest of you; but I'd rather have the police on my side from the start and cooperate, to an extent. I'd just give the basics. Something like "That guy came into the store and murdered the clerk. I had to shoot him to defend my life. I'm really emotionally stressed right now, so I'm having a hard time dealing with what just happened and I can't really go into all of the details right now". That way the police at least have some idea of what happened and you're not risking giving out any incorrect info that could be used against you later.

Here's another scenario:

You're walking down the street and some bad guy pulls a knife on you and threatens your life. You make distance, get your gun out and shoot him. He is alive when the police get there. He tells them that all he was doing was waiting around for his Grandma so he could walk her across the street when suddenly, this crazy gun nut (you) pulled a gun on him and shot him for no reason at all. You sit there only saying "I want my lawyer". Who do you think the police will believe?

Last edited by DasGuy; February 8, 2012 at 03:11 PM.
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Old February 8, 2012, 06:04 PM   #49
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Dasguy said:
"I don't understand the whole "never say anything to the police"."

When you say something, anything, to the police then it becomes permanent record which later on you or your attorney will have to defend. So to avoid your words becoming permanent record you don't say anything at all. Also, emotions, body language, etc. will become part of the permanent record. The officer may mention how you were fidgeting, moving, becoming emotional, erratic etc. in a report or it may be recorded on video. You or your attorney will have to explain this body language to a judge or jury as well.

When the police show up, they have to have probable cause to make an arrest. Here is a simple example that is easy to understand. Before an officer can make an arrest for a DUI and put you on the official breathalyzer at their police station in my state, they need to have probable cause. To develop that probable cause, they will ask a series of questions such as "Have you been drinking?" and then ask you to submit to certain field sobriety tests. In my state, the driver does not have to answer that question or submit to the field sobriety tests. The officer, however, does not tell the driver that answering these questions and taking those tests are optional. The only thing that is not optional is the breathalyzer at the police station...the handheld breathalyzer is optional in my state. I have known quite a few people who knew the law and refused to answer any questions or take these optional tests and their arrests were invalidated.

Your defense starts when the police show up. It was talked about earlier in this thread about legal qualifications and thats a good point. You are not qualified to make decisions on what should be said to the police. Only a licensed attorney with specific criminal court experience or the public defender is qualified to make these types of decisions. If you decide to defend yourself and start making statements, then you are putting your life in your own hands. Imagine being placed in a jail or prison cell like Brian or Harold.

The police are not bad people and some you may even want to be friends with on the side. However, they have their instructions on what to do and, these days, most everything they do is on video or audio which can easily be scrutinized by their superiors later on. Therefore, they are going to follow their training and instructions. In this modern age of video and audio, their discretion is limited. You have no idea what statements made to the police will compound the situation. On the other hand, the police know which statements will compound your situation and it is not their job to tell you which statements will make it worse.

If you just shot someone, pulled a firearm on someone or committed any kind of battery or assault or any other crime where you might spend one day in jail for, then your best bet is not to say anything at all. Stand there quietly, peacefully, and tell the officer "I wish to remain silent". Do not launch into explanations of what happened. Get yourself an attorney immediately or work with the public defender, but do not make any statements or answer questions.

If you have to spend a night or so in jail then so be it. If you have been out on a hunting or camping trip then you will probably have stayed in lesser accomodations. Dont be scared to spend a night in jail. Just know that whatever you say at that moment can and probably will be used against you. You might feel a little unsocial about not saying anything or you might feel you are disrespecting the officer by not helping them complete their report on this matter. Don't worry about that. Think of yourself. The officer is going to go home at the end of their shift to their family and that report they write is just another thing they are paid to do. On the other hand, your freedom is at stake in these matters and you are not qualified to speak to the police.

In the situation above with the store which was robbed and you just shot someone. I would tell the police "I wish to remain silent and want to talk to an attorney." Hand them your license or identification and don't say anything more. Launching into an explanation about how stressed you are is not advisable. A Detective or experienced officer will probably thoroughly investigate the crime scene. They can talk to your attorney about the situation in the days to come and then they can complete their report on the matter at that time.

It is not the officer's job to believe someone. It is the judge or jury's job to believe someone and make a judgement. Do not worry about how guilty you might look if you immediately tell them you want an attorney. The fact that you desired an attorney immediately cannot be used against you in court. That is your right.

Last edited by CaptainObvious; February 8, 2012 at 06:16 PM.
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Old February 8, 2012, 06:38 PM   #50
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interacting with the police after you are involved in a shooting incident

You're certainly better off to make a brief statement to the police after any self defense incident you're in. Give the first responding officers a brief synopsis, so they can get on with the investigation. If you decide to make a short statement to the police, make it to a supervisor or the case detective. You don't want to make multiple statements. One will do fine.

Police officers are trained to make a brief factual statement after any shooting incident they're involved in. It is often referred to as a "public safety statement" and deals only with the relevant information needed to deal with the incident and to protect the scene. Such as, how many suspects were there? How were they dressed? If some escaped, which way did they go? Are there any witnesses around? Are there items of evidence around that need to be protected and recovered? Does anybody need medical attention?

You don't have to give them your life story and you probably won't be able to remember all the details about the incident, so DO NOT try to go into great detail. But a brief statement is probably in your best interests. You have to survive the initial incident, and then you have to survive the investigation, and then you have to survive any potential civil litigation.

If you respond to the police in the same way that they are trained to do when involved in a self-defense shooting, it may help them reach an understanding that you were indeed acting appropriately under the circumstances. If you lie to a cop, or try to hide something from a cop, or if they perceive that you are trying to hide something, they respond like sharks do when they smell blood in the water . . . you do NOT want that to happen to you. Nor do you want to talk too much, nor make multiple statements about what happened to multiple investigators. The more you think this stuff through in advance, the better off you will be.

You should locate an attorney locally who has some expertise and understanding of self-defense issues, and talk to him soon. Get an understanding of how the law works in YOUR STATE and also what the actual "prosecutorial climate" is toward self-defense incidents is in YOUR LOCATION. Find out who the local police union uses as legal counsel for officers involved in a self-defense shooting.

Remember, most cops and most prosecutors (and most defense attorneys) don't have that much experience investigating legitimate self defense shootings, because they don't happen all that often in most jurisdictions. So you need to do some research ahead of time.

IN THE GRAVEST EXTREME by Massad Ayoob remains the standard work on the legal issues of self defense. It was written in 1980 and needs to be updated, but most of the legal information in there is still valid.

How much do you tell the police after you are involved in a self-defense shooting? A lot depends on how the self-defense issue is addressed in the laws of YOUR STATE. (look your laws up. Don't depend on somebody to tell you what they are, or what they think they are. look them up yourself. Depending upon how the statutes are organized, sometimes it's hard to find them on the web, and you may have to go look at the hard copy of the statutes down at the public library)

Where I live (Wisconsin), there is no "right" to self defense in the statutes -- self defense is an AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE, where basically you are saying "Yes, I shot the guy in self defense AND THIS IS WHY." (Our statutes use the term "privilege" to define instances where otherwise unlawful acts are justified; such as the use of force in self defense) If there are witnesses that can support your actions, or evidence that would prove that events happened the way you said they did, YOU need to point this stuff out to officer friendly when he gets there. DO NOT presume that the cops will find this stuff on their own. Most cops, even detectives, do not investigate legitimate self-defense shootings very often. This means they may overlook evidence that is beneficial to your case. This may also mean that they mis-interpret events, because they're NOT familiar with this kind of investigation.

Don't misconstrue the suggestion that you should make a statement to the police to mean that you need to make a detailed statement at the scene of the incident. That is probably NOT a good idea.

What you need to do is sometimes referred to as a "public safety statement" -- that's what cops are often required to give at the scene of an incident they are involved in. It would be simple -- something like "I was gassing my car up and a guy appeared out of the darkness with a knife and he tried to rob me and he threatened me with the knife and began to advance and my escape route was cut off and I was in fear for my life and I shot at him to defend myself." Just a simple explanation of the incident. Don't go into great detail at the time, because you'll probably be too upset. Wait until you have counsel before you make a DETAILED statement, but tell the investigating officers SOMETHING -- a brief synopsis of events.

You will be handling it the same way that most police unions tell their officers to respond in such an investigation -- a brief description of events, followed by "I prefer not to make any more statements until I've had the advice of counsel".

Of course, all situations are different. And I don't know how the police and prosecutors handle incidents like this where you live. To make a determination about the "prosecutorial climate" in your locale, DON'T depend on anything written in the newspaper. Articles in the newspaper or features on television are not (generally) prepared by people who know anything about the law or tactics or much of anything else. They're just newspaper or TV reporters, NOT subject matter experts about anything. Most of the stuff you read in the papers has significant errors in it, not because the news media are participants in some vast conspiracy, but because THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE WRITING ABOUT. So don't depend on the media to get the facts straight on anything.

And don't depend on advice you hear from some gunshop commando or some guy you ran into at the gun show. A regular general practice attorney probably won't be of much use as a reference, either. You'll need to talk to somebody who specializes in this kind of criminal defense. And DON'T depend on advice from the cop who lives down your street. Absent specialized training, they won't know either! They may (or may not) be familiar with the policy of their police department, and how the police union advises them to act after being involved in an incident, but they probably WILL NOT have good advice for the private citizen in a similar situation.

(It seems that people who have a few seconds to realize that they're in danger can usually maintain better mental track during the incident than those caught totally by surprise. And if you are wounded or sustain a significant injury, you are in no position to be talking at all.)

Remember, ANY STATEMENT YOU MAKE TO THE POLICE CAN BE USED AS EVIDENCE. The police only have to inform you of your privilege against testimonial self incrimination during a custodial arrest. There is a common misconception that "it doesn't count" if you have not provided and signed some kind of written statement, and this is incorrect.

When you make this brief statement, make it to the sergeant or the investigator who will be the primary investigator on the case. Don't explain to just any uniformed cop who happens by, because they may not be primary on the incident. And only give your statement once. The more you repeat it, the more likely it is that there will be inconsistencies, caused by the stress of the situation.

If you aren't sure that you can make a statement and then stop talking, then it might be best to say very little at all.

Always remember: Most police seldom if ever investigate a legitimate self-defense shooting incident. If you are uncooperative, it makes it that much harder for them to figure out what actually happened. Innocent people usually DO NOT invoke their rights against testimonial self incrimination -- they can't wait to tell the investigating officers all about what happened BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG! Right or wrong, cops equate "silence" with "guilt". You can rant and rave all you want about your "rights" but the first right you have is to be responsible for your actions!

That being said be careful what you say, but it's best that you give them a little bit of information so they can start the investigation, and then ask for your lawyer. If there is evidence or witnesses that can verify your side of the story, the police need to know that. You can't assume they're just going to magically figure it out for themselves. If you want to avoid a great deal of trouble, you're going to have to cooperate with the investigation in a limited and careful way. But be very careful what you say!

Just remember not to over-think this stuff: Your actions will be evaluated based on the information known to you at the time of the incident. Your perception of threat. Your perception of tactical options. Your decisions will be compared to those of a "reasonable man" under the same circumstances

Some of the instructors who primarily train the armed private citizen (like John Farnam & Massad Ayoob) always suggest that you find an attorney in your area (if possible) who specializes in defending private citizens in self defense cases, and at least pay to talk to them for an hour or two and get their interpretation of the law in your state and the "judicial climate" in your locality -- how police & prosecutors proceed in these kind of investigations, how the process works, what political issues may be at play, and etc. That's pretty good advice, with the qualifier that, in many locations, it'll be pretty hard to find an attorney with trial experience in this unusual area, because in most places there just aren't that many true self-defense shootings. A regular general practice attorney probably won't have any specialized training or experience in this area, and they may not know that they don't know, so it's always possible that you may get some bad advice.

You might want to consider talking to the counsel for the local police officer's union or association -- it's quite possible that the local police union attorney has had some specialized training in this area, or can point you in the direction of somebody who does have such training

Read your state statutes to see how the whole topic of "self defense" is addressed -- in common law states, it may not be mentioned in the statutes at all. In other states, statutes may define the circumstances under which a citizen can use force to defend life or property [In my home state, Wisconsin, it's defined by statute as "privilege" and defined thusly: "The fact that the actor's conduct is privileged, although otherwise criminal, is a defense to prosecution for any crime based on that conduct. The defense of privilege can be claimed under any of the following circumstances (2.) When the actor's conduct is in defense of persons or property under any of the circumstances described in 939.48 (Self-Defense and the Defense of others) or 939.49 ((Defense of Property)].

In most cases, as a citizen who uses force in self defense, the way to approach this is EXACTLY the way it's approached when a law enforcement officer uses force in self defense: the affirmative defense: Yes, I used force to defend myself, and this is why I am justified in doing what I did

Should you have the misfortune to be involved in a self-defense shooting, the issue is NOT in taking responsibility and explaining your actions to the first responding officers or to investigators. What you need to avoid is making statements "in the heat of the moment" that are confusing, or not what you meant to say, or not an accurate recitation of the facts as you perceived them. The stress of a deadly force encounter can cause the mind to work in strange ways.

So don't make any detailed statements until after you've talked to counsel. But yes, you should tell the cops a few things:

(1.) When they arrive, do exactly as they say. If they tell you to put your gun down, then put it down. If they handcuff you, don't resist. Self defense situations are very chaotic, and the average officer does not go to many incidents involving a legitimate display or delivery of force by a law-abiding citizen, so it may take them quite a while to figure out what's going on.
(2.) What do you tell the cops?
-- "This man tried to attack me"
-- "The evidence is here"
-- "The witnesses are here"
-- "I will sign the complaint"
-- "I will cooperate with the prosecution"
-- "I will cooperate with the investigation, but I'm kind of upset right now."
-- I will cooperate with the investigation and make a full statement after I've had time to gather my thoughts and speak to my attorney."
(3.) You need to give enough of a statement so that the police have an idea about what happened. In particular, they need to know who potential witnesses are and where relevant physical evidence might be located. At the scene, they need enough information to begin the investigation and properly manage the crime scene. Remember, the police equate silence with guilt! The only people who utilize the "right to remain silent" are those with something to hide, so a carefully worded statement is probably in your best interest.
You can only learn from experience if you pay attention!
Jeff22 is offline  
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