Are you prepared for a critical incident? When I speak of critical incidents I am referring to you as a holder or gun owner being put into the position to use your weapon. So many people think that if it’s a “good shoot” that all will be fine and life will go on as normal. They think the law will do it’s job if they are in the right. Nothing could be more idealistic. Let me explain things from the point of a law enforcement officer and someone that has been a part of many trials.
What you think will happen
- You call 911 and report the incident.
- The cops show up and ask questions.
- There is an investigation that you cooperate with.
- You are cleared of any wrong doing.
- No charges are made against you.
- Life goes on and you deal with your own personal issues from the shooting
What really happens
- You call 911, and make a full confession that is recorded and later used against you by the DA and investigators.
- The cops show up and put their guns in your face, force you to the ground, and put you in cuffs.
- You are asked everything but when your last bowel movement was by officers and . Did they read you your rights? Do you remember?
- You spill your guts full of expletives and other unpleasant words.
- You are taken to the locked into a room and observed.
- They play the games for hours while asking you the same questions over and over while you get to the point where you can’t remember what you told them the first time.
- Because you have no idea what you said and who you said it to, they book and charge you.
- A huge bail is set after you spend way too much time in a cell and your family has to put the house up as collateral to a shady looking bail bondsman while you sit next to a smelly guy named bubba that wants to be your boyfriend.
- You appear in court and they put a pretty bracelet on your leg (provided that you came up with the bail and aren’t a flight risk)
I could continue or go into more detail, but you get the idea. Are you seeing where reality greatly differs from what’s in your mind’s eye? This isn’t NCIS, where all crimes are solved within the hour or LL Cool J is the detective. This isn’t legal advice; this is just some common sense advice from someone that has seen the legal process at work and has been the officer that arrived on scene. When 911 is called, you don’t need to outline every detail of the incident or give commentary on what just happened or how it just happened. I wish I could give you an exact script on what to say to the dispatcher but this is something that you may want to discuss with your attorney (you’ve contacted an attorney already right….right?). Anything you say WILL be used against you. In the heat of emotion and stress, expletives may be used on your part or comments that will bury you in court later may be uttered. Basic information is more than enough for the dispatcher. Stating your name, location, description of both yourself and the suspect, and what type of incident just occurred. Saying to the dispatcher that you “shot a mother f#@*er that broke in your house” will do nothing but hurt you. Nothing that could be considered a confession needs to be said until you have a present and are speaking directly to the investigator assigned to the case. Once the police arrive, expect to be treated roughly. They don’t know what just happened and they don’t come to the call with a clean slate. These men and women bring their experiences from every call they have ever been dispatched to with them. This “baggage” is what keeps them alive and returning to their families. It is of course in your best interest to follow the commands of the responding officers.
Once all parties have been identified they will start asking questions. At this point you really only need to provide your information (ID) and that you will be happy to answer their questions when your lawyer is present. If you have an attorney that is willing to come to the scene then you are a very lucky person. A call to your attorney should be the second call you make after 911. An example of what to tell the police on the scene is, “I wish to cooperate with your investigation but at this time I am very shaken and need time to compose myself and to speak with my attorney. Once my attorney is present with me, you will be provided with the information you need for your investigation.” You have to be very cautious about what you say until you have an attorney with you. If you say the wrong thing you WILL BE CHARGED! After the initial interview on the scene with the responding officers you will be brought to the department or other location for further interviewing by the investigator assigned to the case.
By calling an attorney, the police may assume guilt, but it’s their job to poke holes in your story and discover if a crime has been committed. In a heightened state of emotion after a shooting, the facts will blur and it won’t be too difficult for them to have you completely turned upside down. Having an attorney present that is an objective third party may mean the difference between charges and a trial or you going back to your family. Just because you are going home doesn’t mean that you are out of the woods though. It was four months before George Zimmerman was charged with any crime and it was only after tremendous political pressure on the department that charges were filed. In other words you need to start working on a defense immediately and be prepared for the worst. There are many factors that will play into if you are charged with a crime or not. You need to know the laws in your state so that you know if you are within your rights to self-defense. Until recently, in North Carolina (my home state) you could shoot an intruder outside your home who was attempting to break in, however once he was inside you had the legal obligation to retreat and you had to prove that your life was being threatened. How stupid was that law? That’s right, you could shoot at an unseen target legally, but you had to watch him steal your TV unless he attacked you with it! If the in your state is similar you can easily be charged with 2nd Degree Homicide for shooting an intruder in the night. Know your laws before you use your weapon or you will more than likely call a prison home for a very long time. At best you are tempting fate.
It’s your responsibility to have a plan in place if something ever does happen. You need to have a lawyer to call and you need to meet with them and ask questions long before the worst case scenario happens. They also need to know who you are, so send them a fruit cake every Christmas and make sure you use them for any other legal needs you have(starting a business, writing a will, looking over a contract). There are also networks in place that you can join that will recommend attorneys and even cover your fees if you haven’t broken any laws. Do some research and be prepared. Make sure your family knows what to do and who to call. It may not be you that the incident occurs to, make sure your wife also knows what should and shouldn’t be said. Criminal and civil lawsuits are a reality that you need to be prepared for as well. Using common sense and having plans in place may mean the difference between freedom and prison or keeping your home and being homeless. Having a gun and carrying it is a huge responsibility, just ask . Although cleared of criminal charges, I am sure a civil suit will be filed. He and his family have received death threats. This man’s life will never be the same, but he is alive and that is the point of having your weapon and being trained in its use. Be safe, train, and hope for the best, but prepare for the worst case possible!