When it comes to protecting yourself and your family, there is nothing more important than being prepared. As a responsible gun owner or concealed carrier, you have taken the extra precaution of arming yourself in order to protect those closest to you. But what do you need to know after a self-defense shooting? Knowing how best to handle the aftermath of a shooting in self-defense can make all the difference between facing the potential consequences of using lethal force.
Interacting With Police After A Self-Defense Shooting
Following a self-defense shooting, the police will arrive on the scene responding to an operator’s “shots fired” call. They’ll be arriving without any knowledge of who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy. It’s crucial to make them aware you’re the good guy. You need to win the race to 911. Once you’ve made that call, reach out to the USCCA Critical Response Team. Keep in mind that fear is a natural response for everyone involved in a gun call. Stay calm and follow all instructions, even if you ultimately find yourself handcuffed and on the ground. Your firearm, which you should have immediately put down upon seeing those flashing red and blue lights, will likely be taken into evidence.
Your Rights After a Self-Defense Shooting
Let’s talk about your rights after you shoot someone in self-defense. Before your attorney arrives, you should take note of any seemingly insignificant details that might actually serve as evidence and keep quiet. In the July 2023 issue of Concealed Carry Magazine1, author Paul Peng recommended that your statement to the police be short and sweet: “I defended myself because I was in fear for my life.” He said that simply saying you were scared will paint an incorrect picture of the incident and will end up being used against you in court. Remember, anything and everything you say can and will be used against you in court.
Leave the rest up to a skilled criminal defense attorney. It’s noteworthy that the circumstances under which you must be given the Miranda warning are actually quite limited. Don’t wait around for the police to read you your Miranda rights! After providing the aforementioned information, let the investigating officers know that you’re willing to cooperate but are awaiting your attorney. The best defense you have during this time period is observing your Fifth Amendment right to silence.
Following an emotionally charged and high-adrenaline event like a self-defense shooting, logical thinking may become more difficult. Your sense of time may be skewed, and you might forget important details. In fact, your brain might even fill in some gaps with false memories. Give yourself time to process and sort it all out, and enlist the help of an attorney to navigate through the aftermath of the self-defense incident.
Remember, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to shoot someone in self-defense, these steps can make a significant difference. Even police officers are recommended to wait a certain amount of time before filling out a report on incidents to prevent false memories and to improve memory recall of important details. If you have taken a USCCA Concealed Carry & Home Defense Fundamentals class to get your CCW permit, you’ll be familiar with this “waiting period” to let your biological responses settle down.
Self-Defense Legal Proceedings Are Not Like TV
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 when defending yourself, 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.
Taken for Questioning Following a Shooting
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.”
Navigating the Police Interrogation
The interrogating officer 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. During this critical time, USCCA can offer support with its 24/7 access Attorney Network, with attorneys across the U.S. who are on your side and believe in your right to self-defense. Even if you select a different attorney after this interrogation, having an attorney on hand will help your case and prevent any missteps that could land you wrongfully imprisoned for a legal act of self-defense.
You will most likely, however, be on your own for the first few hours after shooting someone in self-defense 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 After a Self-Defense Incident
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 law enforcement 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 seven to eight 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 self-defense attorney first! The police are not calling you back in because you failed to give them certain details. They are calling to look into you as a suspect. It’s important to know 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.
What Happens to Your Gun After a Self-Defense Shooting?
Even if you shoot someone in self-defense and the court rules it justified, it could take months or longer for the police to return your gun. For instance, in February 2022, a wanted man ambushed USCCA Member Wayne Pert at his summer mobile home in Florida. Despite being wounded in the left shoulder and in the left wrist, Pert shot and killed his attacker. Even before Pert was taken away in the ambulance, responding officers seized his Taurus 9mm, holster and clothing for evidence. The police found that Pert had responded appropriately, but he didn’t get his gun and holster back for five months. (Pert’s story was featured in the October 2022 issue of Concealed Carry Magazine. USCCA Members can read back issues of the magazine by logging into their Member Site.)
Going to Trial For Your Self-Defense Case
Self-defense cases are expensive. Most cases utilize multiple attorneys and subject matter experts. The billable hours are stacking up … and you haven’t even made it to trial yet. Things are happening in the background though. Learn about how concealed carry insurance can help to cover some of the costs.
You Know the Details About the Self-Defense 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.
In a 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. Between legal costs, loss of income from court dates and potentially jail, becoming a USCCA Member can be a financial lifesaver. 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.
In the aftermath of a self-defense shooting, it’s important to bear in mind the hefty financial cost such an incident can have on your wallet. Not only are there all the associated legal fees, but with a criminal trial at stake, securing quality attorneys can reach into the tens of thousands. More importantly though, if you find yourself involved in a self-defense scenario of any sort, remain calm, focused and aware of your rights as they pertain to protection from law enforcement. If presented with police intervention, ask for legal representation immediately and follow your attorney’s advice. Self-defense is always better acted upon than reacted to — know how to protect yourself long before an altercation becomes physical in order to reduce anxiety and fear should it ever bother you at all.
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.