Do you know how to avoid talking your way into handcuffs? Or worse, jail time? Do you have a plan in place for the moments immediately following a self-defense incident? Do you know what to say and what not to say?
Self-defense incidents don’t typically happen during regular business hours. And they never happen in the way you might expect. Take the following story, for example.
David witnessed a crazed man speeding out of a Lowe’s parking lot, driving straight toward uniformed police officers as they drew their weapons. He heard shots fired and felt the need to act to ensure the safety of the police officers. David drew his firearm and discharged a single round, which struck the driver in the arm. The attacker was soon apprehended—but David’s story was far from over.
To David’s surprise, after the attacker was placed into custody, the officers began investigating David for a potential crime. Fortunately, David was prepared; he was a U.S. LawShield member.
David promptly called the U.S. LawShield emergency hotline, and an Independent Program Attorney was immediately able to assist him, establishing that essential attorney-client privilege. David’s conversation with the Independent Program Attorney was privileged and confidential. This privilege is crucial, because it means no one can force you to divulge the contents of your conversation or use it against you in court.
Acting in justified defense of a third party didn’t stop the police from investigating David or the prosecutors from presenting the case to a grand jury. While the grand jury ultimately no-billed David’s case, we should not forget the valuable takeaway from his story: Even if you are acting in justified self-defense, you may still have to defend yourself against criminal charges.
You might have done everything right during the situation, but what you do and say to the police and 911 operators could make a difference between spending the night at home or in jail. Think My Cousin Vinny. And if you haven’t seen this movie, the opening scene is worth your time to show what we’re talking about.
So, what should—and shouldn’t—you say?
First off, call 911—especially if you or someone else is injured and needs immediate medical attention. But remember, all 911 calls are recorded. Anything you say can be used against you. So, be brief; don’t give the operator a detailed description of the incident or the events leading up to it. Don’t use words like “shot” or “killed.” Don’t mention your weapon. Just tell the operator:
- your name and location;
- that you are the victim of a crime;
- that you’re requesting EMS and police be dispatched;
- a general description of what you’re wearing to avoid any confusion by police when they arrive; and
- hang up!
Next, you need to get legal advice and make sure you are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
You need to talk to an attorney before making any further statements to law enforcement. If you don’t, you could talk your way into deep trouble.
If you’re a U.S. LawShield member, you can call the U.S. LawShield emergency hotline—the number located on the back of your member card—and follow the instructions that the attorney gives you.
Try to make this call in a private area to speak in confidence. The Independent Program Attorney will be able to advise you on your specific incident and give you immediate, location-specific, personalized legal advice.
If you cannot get to a private area, give the attorney your name, member number, location, and what type of emergency you’ve just experienced. When talking to law enforcement, politely but firmly invoke your right to remain silent and your right to counsel. Simply remaining silent is not enough. You must affirmatively invoke your rights. Taking these steps can mean the difference between your freedom and your incarceration.
You need a self-defense plan.
Stories like David’s illustrate exactly why it’s so crucial that you prepare a comprehensive self-defense plan. Just by reading this article, you’re taking the first step. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse that will hold up in court. You need to prepare yourself mentally for self-defense situations and learn your rights. Finally, if you have a membership with U.S. LawShield, you have 24/7/365 access to an attorney who is in your corner to help you navigate today’s complicated legal world.