The Police Are Going to Arrive
The first thing you should know about a self-defense incident is that the police are going to arrive. After a shooting, they’ll be responding to a “shots fired” call and will come in not knowing who the good guy is and who the bad guy is.
Make them aware that you’re the good guy! Win the race to 911. Then call the USCCA Critical Response Team. And remember that everyone is afraid when responding to a gun call. Remain calm and follow all commands. You may end up handcuffed and on the ground. Your gun, which you should have put down immediately when you saw the flashing red and blue, will be taken into evidence.
Your Rights After a Self-Defense Incident
Before your attorney arrives, the only thing you should say is, “I was the victim of an assault. This is what the bad guy looks like. He went that way.” Point out anything that may appear benign but is actually a piece of evidence. And then shut your mouth.
Leave the rest of what you say up to an experienced criminal defense attorney. You should also be aware that the circumstances for when you have to be given the Miranda warning are actually very limited. Don’t wait for the police to read you your Miranda rights! After giving them the above information, tell the investigating officers that you would like to cooperate but are waiting for your attorney.
After an emotionally charged, high-adrenaline event such as a self-defense shooting, you are not thinking logically. Your timeline is probably jumbled. You are probably forgetting things. In fact, your brain may be filling in the blanks with fictional memories. Give yourself time to sort it all out, and get an attorney to help you with that untangling.
This Is Not Hollywood
Your attorney, despite what Law & Order has led you to believe, is not going to kick in the door of the jail or the interrogation room and tell the detectives to leave. You need to raise your own rights. No one can do it for you.
Most often, unless there is a flight risk, police will do a “book and release” after your interview. It’s difficult to predict exactly what is going to happen or how long you will be held, but it will be longer than a 55-minute episode of a cop show leads you to believe. The process can be easier if you avoid critical errors, however. Assuming you did the right thing and it was a good shoot, your release will be smooth. The right defensive firearms training and legal knowledge can help to make the aftermath of a self-defense incident easier.
When You’re Taken for Questioning
Navigating the Police Interrogation
It’s important again to remember that procedures will vary based on the jurisdiction you’re in. At this point in most cases, an officer will take you to an interrogation room and record your answers to a battery of questions. The officer may try to “blitz” you with questions, coming at you kind of hard. He may also try to be your friend, offering coffee and “just trying to understand.”
This will most likely be a different cop than the one on the scene. So, he or she will know less about what happened than the person you were dealing with before. It is important to already have your legal representation with you at this point, if possible.
You will most likely, however, be on your own for the first few hours before your attorney can get there. Raise your rights and then stop talking. And know the difference between those rights. If you raise your right to silence, the police can continue to badger you and ask you questions. When you ask for your attorney, the police have to disengage. But if you start talking, you have waived your rights. You have now made a voluntary statement.
Getting Out of Jail
The timeline for when you can get out will vary from place to place and in differing situations. You may be charged at hour 47 of 48, which starts a new timeline. Remember, you’ll get much further with the jail staff if you’re polite. The police are not holding you maliciously; they’re just trying to find the facts. They may ask you the same question over and over again trying to get to the truth. The interview process may last 30 to 60 minutes, or it may last 7 to 8 hours.
Keep your cool. Ask for your attorney. Take the time you need to sort out what happened. Be polite. Stick to the facts.
The Legal Process Begins
You’re out of custody, but you’re not out of the woods. You won’t have your firearm, and there may be some bond conditions. The cops are confident enough to let you out of custody. This is a good sign — but you may need to go back in to give another statement.
Don’t Go It Alone — Call an Attorney!
Call your attorney first! The police are not calling you back in because you have not failed to give them certain details. They are calling to look at you. It’s important to know that there may be a time gap depending on the schedules of the responding officers or district attorneys.
If the prosecutor decides to file charges, the legal process begins with intake court. This is where you will learn your state statutes. The basic details — who, what, where, when, why — will be laid out. Then the judge will decide if it goes to trial. This initial appearance will just be to determine bail and probable cause and to formally charge you.
What Is Your Attorney Up To?
After step one, your attorney may not have immediate access to the evidence. He or she will be filing paperwork in order to receive the evidence. The court will have a “reasonable amount of time” to produce this.
In the meantime, you may have several court dates every three to six weeks. Hopefully, though, the judge will be giving you and your attorney time to sort through your defense. A relatively easy case can last up to seven months. A felony case can last seven to 14 months. Generally, the defense wants more time to work through the details and give the bad guy a chance to slip up.
Going to Trial
This life-changing event is probably going to cost you. Most cases utilize multiple attorneys and experts. The billable hours are stacking up … and you haven’t even made it to trial yet. Things are happening in the background though.
You Know the Details About the Shooting
The client is the best resource. Though your memory may be shaky at first, you are the only one who was there and knows what happened. After your attorney has received the evidence, he or she will make a copy and send it to you for review. You should read it and write back about anything that is missing or incorrect.
Also during this phase, there will be motion hearings. In these hearings, typically weeks or months before the jury trial, your attorney will be trying to suppress any evidence obtained under violated rights. These are the building blocks for the jury trial and can be small or as much work as the trial. If these go your way, prosecutors may be more reasonable in settling your case. And they can determine the outcome of your full trial months in advance.
How the Jury Trial Goes Down
In the jury trial, the prosecutor has the burden of proof. Therefore, he or she will get to open and close the trial. Most times, it is not in your best interest to testify. This is a long, drawn-out process. It’s important to remember that you will want assistance for everything that happens after the shooting. But your troubles may not end with your jury trial. It is not uncommon for defenders to be brought back to court for a civil lawsuit case.
The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. Members and the concealed carry community and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case. Laws are constantly changing, and, as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer for a specific case.