So you have decided that you are going to carry a concealed weapon for personal security, or to protect your family. You have determined that if needed, you are willing to take someone’s life to defend your own. Self-defense laws will protect you from going to jail if something terrible happens. Right?
It comes as a surprise to some that if you get mugged, or someone breaks into your home, and you have to use your gun, you may still go to jail. Not only go to jail, but you may very well go to court over it.
You may end up on the stand defending yourself from criminal charges or civil suits, and maybe both, even if you did everything right. It is entirely possible that you will at least go to court for using force against another person. Even if you win, you are going to have to pay for lawyers and other expenses.
So how does that happen? If you did everything right, why are you being treated like a criminal and not a victim? I’ll explain.
If you did everything right, why are you being treated like a criminal and not a victim? I’ll explain.
In a lot of scenarios, it all comes down to the events that transpire directly following the shooting, when the first police arrive on the scene. How the officers interpret what they see and hear, can set the path for the rest of the case. Understandably so, police officers get a little on the edge when they are responding to a call of “shots fired,” and it gets a little worse when they walk in and see someone holding a gun, and a dead man on the floor.
Depending on the officers, and the information they have up to that point, you may get an “Are you OK sir?” or a “Get on the ground, sir!”. So how do we approach this, and what to do after the fact? How do we make sure that we don’t end up in jail, or on trial, for protecting ourselves?
The author is not a lawyer, nor should this article be considered legal advice. Neither the author nor the website www.SurvivalSullivan.com shall be held liable for any damage, misuse or side effects as a direct or indirect result of the application of the advice given in this article.
What to expect after the fact
First, let’s talk about what exactly would happen after a shooting.
Once law enforcement officers arrive on the scene, they will immediately take control and will be in charge from that point forward. It is crucial to remember that when they come into a situation, they do not know what is going on, and may treat you as the aggressor.
This mindset may seem odd, but you have to remember they just walked into a room with a dead guy and a guy holding a gun. The instinct is to target you first, at least until they know the scene is safe, and what happened. Once they get control of everything that is when they will begin to investigate and can figure out what is going on and what happened.
Make sure you follow their instructions. It is possible that you may be ordered to the ground or even placed into restraints while they sort everything out. That is ok. Putting everyone in restraints or putting everyone on the ground helps keep them safe and helps them control the situation. Once they arrive, it is your job to follow their orders.
What you say when law enforcement arrives can be significantly important. Not only can it help them, but it can also protect you later if the situation goes to court.
If you have had to use force on someone, been in an altercation, or worse, had to use lethal force, you are in no state of mind to make statements that can be used in court and can impact the rest of your life. Some experts say that it takes as many as three sleep cycles for you to be able to recall all of the events accurately. You may not be trying to forget anything, but if you can’t remember it, you can’t help leaving out details.
The exact story of what happened should be made in a statement after you have calmed down, had a chance to replay the incident in your head, and preferably have spoken with an attorney. If the officers ask you questions, answer them, but try not to volunteer a ton of details. It’s best to say something like “Officer, you will have my full cooperation once my counsel arrives, but I’d like not to answer any questions until I speak with my attorney.”
Some things should just be avoided when making a statement to law enforcement. Comments about knowing your rights, calling the suspect by slang or insulting names (Dirtbag, thug, etc.), and speaking about specific laws and policies should be avoided.
No matter what you do, or how justified a deadly force incident is, there will be an investigation. The investigation is just part of the judicial process, and you should be prepared for it, and not feel threatened by it.
Even the most justified uses of deadly force are likely to invite close examination of the entire encounter between you and the person injured or killed. This is not to attempt to prove that you did something wrong but to make sure that they fully understand how the situation played out.
You will be questioned immediately, and as mentioned above you should avoid giving a statement until you have spoken to your attorney. Just answer the officer’s questions with basic, one world answers. They are not attempting to determine justification at this point, but just gathering enough information to understand what happened and forward it on to the detectives.
Once you give your statement, with the advice of a lawyer, you are not finished. You will be brought in a second time for questioning in most situations. This is done for a few reasons.
One is to see if your story changes any from the original statement, as this is a common thing seen when someone is lying.
Second, is due to the same reason you don’t make statements on the scene; the human mind remembers things clearer after some time has passed and it has had a few “resets” or sleep cycles. A seasoned investigator can tell the difference between someone changing their story, and someone remembering more details.
Once the detectives have all of their reports in order, they will present the case to a grand jury. A grand jury is a jury of 16-23 citizens that review the reports and hears testimony from the detectives and may even subpoena witnesses and other persons of interest. Their job is to determine if any criminal conduct was present and if charges should be filed.
If the grand jury fails to return any charges, then the process ends there in what is known as ” exonerated by grand jury.” If the grand jury returns an indictment, charges will be filed, and the case will move to the courts for prosecution.
What to expect in criminal court
There is a good chance that any action you take involving the use of force could end up in either a criminal or civil courtroom. It is important to remember that just because you have to go to court doesn’t mean anything is wrong.
While we would all like to avoid the situation going to court at all, the right to a trial is guaranteed to everyone, and it just means that everything is going to get explained and looked it. If you haven’t done anything wrong, there is no need to worry. It is imperative to note that you will need a criminal defense attorney if your case goes to trial. While other options such as defending yourself do exist, it is not recommended.
When it comes to criminal trials, that is trials that assess if someone is guilty of a crime, there are two variations. The first is called a “bench trial,” in which the judge will make the final decision. The second is a standard jury trial, where a jury of twelve people will make the decision.
There will be at least two lawyers, the prosecutor and the defense lawyer. Sometimes either lawyer may have other lawyers that assist them, especially the prosecutor. The prosecutor will be presenting the case for the state, and they typically are a little rough around the edges. Your lawyer will be defending and will attempt to disprove or explain the issues that the prosecutor raises.
You do have the right not to testify, but it is prevalent for the defendant to take the stand. Both attorneys will most likely question you. It is imperative to remain calm and not get angry on the stand, even if the prosecutor is accusing you of lying or being guilty of this or that, he is only doing his job and would not be a reasonable attorney if he didn’t do that. Just take a breath and let you lawyer clear everything up when it’s his turn.
Once both sides are finished presenting their cases and explaining their points the jury will be sent to deliberate. They must come back with a unanimous decision of guilty or not guilty. An 11-1 vote will cause a “mistrial,” and the entire trial will have to be repeated.
In the event of a guilty verdict, the judge will order a separate proceeding called a “sentencing,” where the actual sentence will be handed out.
What to expect civilly
We have talked about what you can expect during the criminal proceedings, but what about civil repercussions, that is, what can you expect when you get sued? Being found not guilty at a criminal trial does not mean that you won’t be judged against civilly. However, being found guilty will in most cases almost guarantee a judgment for the plaintiff in a civil case.
The first thing that happens is a complaint is filed with the court. Then the defendant is served with the complaint, and you have a time frame to respond. This is when you retain an attorney if you have not already done so.
Next, there will be an informal hearing, which is just a meeting between the two lawyers and the judge to discuss the details of the case. This is to get everything out in the open and address issues either side might have.
This is where many cases end because during the informal the lawyers will come to an agreement and agree to settle. This is the same thing as a plea deal, and it’s just an agreement to settle for a certain amount of money or other desired retributions.
If it continues, the case will go to trial. In most states either side can request a jury trial, if not requested, the trial will proceed as a “bench” trial with the judge making the final decision. Much like the criminal trial, the attorneys will present their sides of the case and argue against the others.
At the end of the trial, a judge will rule and order a “judgment” for one party or the other, or neither. This judgment is the money that is owed to the other party.
So now we have talked about what will happen, now let’s talk about how you can prepare yourself to survive those events if you have to use your weapon to defend yourself.
Concealed Carry – Personal Liability Insurance
One way is to have concealed carry insurance. Just like you have insurance on your car and home in case something terrible happens, you can have insurance on your gun as well.
Now insurance won’t take care of everything, and you still need to know what to say and what not to say or do, but the leading concealed carry insurance companies offer that specific training, as well as a rapid response team to assist you before the cops arrive.
There are two main concealed carry insurance companies on the market right now that are offering comprehensive policies. They are the United States Concealed Carry Association and the National Rifle Association.
However, there are smaller local insurance companies that are beginning to offer individual policies. To my knowledge, there is no aggregate for these companies, but they are some out there if you want to do your own searching.
The two most popular of these policies is the National Rifle Association’s “Carry Guard,” and the “Self-Defense SHIELD” policy from the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA).
The USCCA offers personal liability insurance they call “Self-Defense SHIELD” that helps you pay for lawyers, bail bonds, court costs, time out of work, and other expenses such as psychological therapy. They offer three different levels of SHIELD protection with the most popular being the “platinum” option. This option will cost you $30 per month or $347 per year.
SHIELD protection provides civil suit defense and damage protection, 100% up-front coverage, criminal defense protection and an up-front attorney retainer, no annual limits or benefits per occurrence, 24/7/365 access to a USCCA critical response team, and up-front bail bond funding.
NRA Carry Guard
The NRA Carry Guard insurance is very similar to the USCCA insurance. They also offer three different levels of protection and help you with bail, bonds, lawyers, court costs, and time out of work.
The primary advantage of the Carry Guard over the USCCA is the size of their organization and the experience they have. Another unique feature they offer is that they cover your spouse as well at no additional costs. The Carry Guard insurance tends to be the lower priced plans between the two, depending on what coverage you want. The gold coverage will cost you $29.61 per month, or $341.52 per year.
Carry Guard provides $1,000,000 of civil protection and $150,000 in criminal defense costs, individual insurance limits, access to payments for bail, bonds, legal retainer fees, and legal referrals, a 24/7/365 members-only hotline that offers immediate assistance, and the automatic coverage for your spouse at no extra cost.
There are some other companies out there that are dedicated to concealed carry defense:
- Firearms Legal Protection
- CCW Safe
- US Law Shield
- Second Call Defense
- Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network
Are there any cons to having this kind of insurance?
There are some downsides, at least some people consider them disadvantages, to having an insurance policy like this.
One supposed issue is that if you have insurance to cover you if you shoot someone, then that shows that you intended to kill someone. Now, this may not seem reasonable, but remember that it is not reasonable for you to go to trial for self-defense either.
Another thing that was mentioned several times on different forums is that some of the individual policies are written to only cover a small portion of cases, and have a lot of disqualifying circumstances.
This means that it is imperative to research your potential companies and to try and find one that fits best with your possible scenarios.
Whichever you choose, having an insurance policy that will help protect you and your family during the incredibly stressful event of having you fire on someone can make everything go a lot easier. It could also provide access to resources that you may otherwise not have access to, and could give you the ability to change the outcome of any proceedings.
It is essential as a responsible gun owner and concealed weapon carrier that you learn your individual state’s laws on self-defense and the circumstances that must be present.
Take every precaution you can to help defend yourself not only physically, but also civilly. You can never have enough information. As the world continues on laws and policies are changed and updated, and new court decisions determine how laws are applied and upheld.
You have to be in a state of constant learning if you want to make sure that you go home, and not to jail.